2020 has been a tough year in so many ways, but we still have a lot to celebrate in the fight for children’s rights! Three important laws, including the long-awaited Raise the Age Act, take effect this summer to help kids thrive and protect them from the dangers and long-term consequences of incarceration. This progress is the culmination of years of hard work and collaboration with partners, young people, and families and we are thrilled to share it with you today!
Raise the Age LA
Raise the Age Louisiana finally went into full effect this month! As of July 1, all 17-year-olds arrested in Louisiana will remain in the juvenile justice system rather than being automatically prosecuted and incarcerated as adults,which is detrimental to their safety and healthy development. The law has been in the works since 2016, when LCCR, the Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition, and hundreds of young people called on the state to treat all kids like kids. Now that Raise the Age is fully implemented, we call on Governor Edwards to fulfill its promise by making sure the state’s juvenile system truly is safe, therapeutic, and rehabilitative.
July 1 also marked the full implementation of Solan’s Law, which is designed to keep children from being unnecessarily jailed. The law is named in memory of 13-year-old Solan Peterson who tragically took his own life in a juvenile jail after he was arrested for a harmless prank. Jurisdictions in the state are now required to fully evaluate a child’s risk level before deciding whether to place them in jail following an arrest. Solan’s family was instrumental in advocating for this law, and their efforts will help ensure that no family has to suffer a loss like theirs.
Juvenile Life Without Parole & the Virtual Life Bill
Louisiana has an ongoing track record of sentencing juveniles to life sentences without parole eligibility even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this practice unconstitutional (with rare exceptions) in 2012. LCCR’s continued fight to end this practice comes with the passage of HB 173, which allows for parole eligibility after 25 years to youth serving egregiously long sentences. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Ted James, will give a second chance to hundreds of people currently incarcerated and serving extreme sentences for crimes they committed as children. The battle to abolish death-in-prison sentences for youth is not yet won, but this is a huge step forward on our way there.