HOW CONNECTICUT RAISED THE AGE

Implementation

Passing a bill is one thing. Making sure that policy gets implemented is another.

The 2007 legislative victory was threatened by the financial crisis that made the state hesitant to expand juvenile services.  The Juvenile Jurisdiction Policy and Operations Coordinating Committee (JJPOCC) was instrumental in safeguarding Raise the Age, originally scheduled to set the age of adult jurisdiction at 18 starting in 2010.

In February 2009, Governor M. Jodi Rell proposed delaying implementation of Raise the Age for two years to cut costs. Throughout the session, the Alliance and other members of the JJPOCC battled the significant fiscal note as well as arguments that Raise the Age would have large local costs. A survey of police chiefs indicated that they would need more officers and upgraded facilities (one chief said he would need an entirely new police station to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as juveniles). A review of the number of youth arrested monthly in these jurisdictions, which were generally quite low, showed the projection to lack credibility.

The following month, JJPOCC members introduced compromise legislative language that would ensure on-time implementation of Raise the Age for 16-year-olds in 2010 but delay implementation for 17-year-olds until 2012. The Office of the Public Defender, State’s Attorney’s Office, and Chief Administrative Judge for Juvenile Matters played key roles in crafting language to keep infractions and motor vehicle violations by 16- and 17-year-olds in adult court to avoid the cost and administrative duplication of the juvenile court developing a process to collect fines. Measures were included to ensure none of these youth could be caught up in adult prison for failure to pay parking tickets, etc.

Meanwhile, the Alliance worked to highlight how juvenile justice system reforms through the 2000s had drastically reduced the size of Connecticut’s juvenile justice system, creating room in facilities, programs and courts to absorb 16-year-olds without as much new investment as was posited originally. Chief Court Administrator William Lavery was determined to make the change of the state’s age of adult jurisdiction to 18 one of his legacies. He worked tirelessly with his team to find creative ways to use existing court space and avoid the estimated costs of court expansion.

Sen. Toni Harp and Rep. Toni Walker, who were both on the Appropriations Committee, which Harp co-chaired, fought to secure in the budget compromise language that Raised the Age of adulthood to 17 on January 1, 2010, and to 18 on July 1, 2012. They also made sure that the budgets included appropriation for DCF and Judicial to implement the reform.

Advocacy

How the Raise the Age campaign got started and what strategies it used.

Study

How an extensive study by stakeholders, including skeptics, moved reform forward.

Implementation

How implementing Raise the Age in stages helped overcome financial concerns.