Nov. 10, 2017 – State Representative Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), and State Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) circulated legislation for cosponsorship calling for the return of nonviolent, first-time 17-year-old offenders to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. The legislation, also referred to as the Second Chance Bill, has been introduced in the last two previous legislative sessions with widespread, bipartisan support.
The legislative proposal has not been formally introduced but includes an important change from previous sessions. In past versions, the bill was opposed by the Wisconsin Counties Association because no funding source was allocated. The new version includes $5 million in funding to the Department of Children and Families, which they will use to create a reimbursement system for the counties for potential costs. The legislation also allocates an additional $5 million in a Joint Finance Committee supplemental appropriation account that may be available if funding for reimbursements runs out. This important funding change has lead the Wisconsin Counties Association to reverse its opposition.
This legislation is an opportunity for the legislature to revise portions of current law – enacted in 1996 – which requires that any 17-year-old who is alleged to have committed a crime be treated as an adult. At this time, all 17-year-olds are considered adults for the purposes of criminal prosecution with no ability to be waived into juvenile court.
Wisconsin is one of only a handful of states that still treats 17-year-olds as adult offenders. The State Bar of Wisconsin has long supported the change and is part of a coalition of advocates supporting the legislation.