Missouri Policy Journal


In 2018, the Missouri General Assembly joined the ranks of forty-six other states and D.C. in the Raise the Age movement and raised the upper age of jurisdiction of the juvenile court from 17 to 18 years old. Senate Bill 793 was signed into law by Governor Eric Greitens on June 1, 2018, and was set to go into effect on January 1, 2021. Similar to other state and county level juvenile justice stakeholders, those in Missouri have expressed concerns over the potential fiscal challenges, increases in workload, and issues related to the allocation of resources and programming within the juvenile justice system. This is especially the case considering that over one-third of Missouri’s population reside in rural areas.

Furthermore, considering that the Missouri juvenile justice system is often referred to as a model program for its ability to dramatically lower juvenile offenders’ recidivism rates, stakeholders have expressed interest in whether or not raising the upper age of jurisdiction will in fact have an effect on juvenile recidivism rates.

Coincidentally, there are two additional factors that prove Missouri and S.B. 793 to be distinctly different from the majority of other states: (1) Missouri’s legislative change applies to all juvenile offenders regardless of offense type, and (2) S.B. 793 explicitly states that “The expanded service of the juvenile court system shall not be effective until sufficient funds are appropriated.” More directly, as the result of a lack of clear direction in the legislation related to funding allocation, several jurisdictions within Missouri are operating under different practices when handling 17-year-olds, with some processing them in their juvenile systems and others still handling them in the adult system or possibly, not at all.

Prior to the implementation of S.B. 793, in partnership with the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association (MJJA), the current researchers conducted a preliminary survey of Missouri juvenile justice stakeholders to examine their perceptions of the legislation. The explicit purpose of the survey was twofold: (1) to identify what Missouri juvenile justice professionals saw as concerns surrounding the legislation, and (2) to examine whether or not they felt prepared for the implementation which was to take effect on January 1, 2021. From this research, several key themes emerged which have guided the focus of the proposed study. The results indicated that Missouri stakeholders were concerned with the potential increase in cost to taxpayers, the overall lack of funding and resources, the influx of cases that would be sent to the juvenile court and subsequently increase probation caseloads and/or residential placements, the lack of mental health resources, and the impact or potential for expanded use of diversion.



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