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Gov. Malloy Suggests Treating More Young Offenders As Juveniles

(AP Photo/Dave Collins)

Governor Dannel Malloy wants Connecticut to be the first in the nation to start trying 19- and 20-year-old offenders as minors.

In 2010, the state legislature let 16 and 17 year-olds into the juvenile justice system. Abby Anderson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, said the program was a success within two years.

“Raising the age for the 16 and 17 year olds has really been lauded as a national model, so it makes sense to me that we just have so much momentum to be able to go forward and keep going,” she said.

Anderson said Malloy’s proposal follows a national trend in believing that young offenders can learn to be successful members of society.

Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, said his latest research shows that young people up to age 21 should be tried as juveniles, because their brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25.

“And, so, we really have an opportunity to shape young people’s behavior, and, frankly, shape their brains during this time period,” he said. “And, really, the last thing you want to do unless you really have to, of course, is put them in a correctional facility with a whole bunch of other not fully mature young adults who then serve as sort of a negative peer group to continue them on a path of delinquent behavior.”

Shiraldi says he also supports Malloy’s push to confidentially hear cases involving offenders ages 21 to 25.

“Imagine if you were known forever by the dumbest thing you did when you were in college,” he said. “Nobody wants that, and that would be what the governor’s proposal would allow young people caught up in the criminal justice system to avoid.”

Shiraldi says Malloy also wants to let young adults apply to have their criminal records sealed, and potentially expunged. His proposal would still need approval from state lawmakers.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.