Sept. 10, 2015 – As the Wisconsin Legislature heads into its fall session, Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma) are circulating a bill draft that is nearly identical to last session’s Second Chance bill, calling for the return of nonviolent, first-time 17-year-old offenders to juvenile court jurisdiction.
LRB 0771/5 would reverse portions of current law, which was enacted in 1996 and requires that every 17-year-old who is alleged to have committed a crime be treated as an adult.
Much of Wisconsin’s concern over juvenile offenders stems from a peak in violent juvenile crime in the early 90’s. At that time, several states made changes to their juvenile laws, but Wisconsin was the only state to place an entire group of youth in the adult system.
New research compiled by the Wisconsin Second Chance Alliance suggests that even though juvenile arrests peaked in Wisconsin in 1994, they have steadily declined since the enactment of the 1996 law. Today, only 2 percent of 17-year-olds are arrested for violent crimes.
Former Governor Tommy Thompson, who signed the current law into place, and former Governor Jim Doyle, who was attorney general when the law was passed, published op-eds during the 2013-14 legislative session in favor of the bill.
Both governors cited new research and studies of the juvenile court system as being instrumental in altering their opinion on the subject of 17-year-old offenders.
Help Us Return These Kids to Juvenile Court
The Second Chance legislation has been and will continue to be a key piece of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s lobbying program.
In its 2007 policy position, the State Bar makes clear that the “adult criminal justice system is neither adequately equipped nor designed to handle juveniles,” and that the “juvenile system has specific programming designed to address issues which are unique to our state’s youth.”
org kstenz wisbar Katie Stenz is public relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached by org kstenz wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6025.
Even though the Second Chance bill did not make it to the floor of the Legislature last session, the bill garnered significant bipartisan co-sponsorships and support in senate and assembly committees.
Here’s how you can help us get the Second Chance bill moving in the Legislature this session:
Call and/or email your state representative and senator and encourage them to show their support for LRB 0771/5 by signing on as a co-sponsor.
For additional information, contact State Bar Government Affairs Coordinators Cale Battles at (608) 250-6077 or email@example.com or Lynne Davis at (608) 250-6045 or firstname.lastname@example.org