Weather Forecast


17-year-old offenders still treated as adults

A lack of money appears to be holding back the effort to treat 17-year-old offenders as juveniles instead of adults.

State Assembly Corrections Committee chairman Joe Parisi says there's widespread support for the bill, but with only nine days left in the current session, there's not enough time to figure out how to pay for it.

Assembly Democrat and former judge Fred Kessler of Milwaukee says his biggest goal is to put 17-year-old offenders back into the juvenile court system - where they can get treatment instead of being exposed to adult criminal gangs behind bars.

Kessler says it probably won't pass until the economy improves.

He introduced the bill for a third time this year - and if he's re-elected in November, he promises to re-introduce it next January.

Lawmakers and former Gov. Tommy Thompson decided in 1996 to put all 17-year-olds into adult court.

By 2002, auditors found that almost half of those young offenders committed new crimes after their prison terms. That was twice the rate of other adult offenders.

According to the Madison Capital Times, it costs around three to four times as much to house 17-year-olds in juvenile institutions instead of adult prisons. The current bill includes a surcharge on traffic fines, but it's not enough to cover the extra cost.