Home News Center Missouri Legislature Unanimously Expands Youth Services for Some Teens Tried As Adults

Missouri Legislature Unanimously Expands Youth Services for Some Teens Tried As Adults

June 12, 2013
Zoe Schein

juvenile-justice-reform_Missouri-flagIn the last weeks of May, the Missouri legislature voted unanimously in favor of S.B. 36, a bill that would make small but crucial changes to the state's program for youth youth subject to the dual jurisdiction of adult and juvenile courts. The program allows some youth who have been convicted or pled guilty in adult court to remain in the custody of Missouri's Department of Youth Services (DYS). That means they can be housed in a youth-oriented facility and receive a range of education and counseling services unavailable to adult offenders.

The bill, also called "Jonathan's Law," was named for Jonathan McClard, a 17-year-old who was sentenced to 30 years in an adult facility. Tragically, McClard lost hope and took his own life. His mother, Tracy McClard, campaigned hard to get the bill passed.

Jonathan's Law extends the age of eligibility for the program from 17 years of age to 17 and six months. Once signed into law by the governor, it would require judges to consider placing all eligible youth under the dual jursidiction of adult and juvenile courts, and to provide formal justification in cases where they find such a placement inappropriate.

Advocates in Missouri hope these changes will increase the number of youth for whom DYS services are available and prevent tragedies like McClard's.

Photo: Aaron Jorbin, under Creative Commons license.

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