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  • Press Release
    October 01, 2015

    State Bar Says State Should Give Some 17-Year-Olds Another Chance

    Madison, WI – The State Bar of Wisconsin is encouraging the Legislature and governor to move forward on and support a newly introduced piece of legislation, AB/SB 280, also known as the Second Chance bill, that would return nonviolent, first-time 17-year-old offenders to juvenile court jurisdiction.

    “In my nearly two decades as a Dane County Circuit Court judge, I witnessed many upstanding teens get placed in adult court because they made one foolish mistake,” said State Bar Past President Patrick J. Fiedler. “For these teens, an adult record means they’ll face barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities.”

    Katie StenzFor more information contact Katie Stenz, public relations coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at org kstenz wisbar wisbar kstenz org, or by phone at (608) 250-6025.

    AB/SB 280, which has overwhelming bipartisan support, 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.

    “The current law was enacted at a time when the national trend was to be ‘tough on crime,’ since then we’ve learned a lot and know that the juvenile system is very effective at providing opportunities for restitution, community service and dialogue between offenders and their victims,” Fiedler said.

    Two former governors agree with Fiedler. 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 opinion pieces 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.

    New data compiled by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families suggests that even though juvenile arrests peaked in Wisconsin in 1994, they have steadily declined since the enactment of the current law. Today, only 2 percent of 17-year-olds are arrested for violent crimes.

    “By signing on to the Second Chance bill, our state’s leaders have an opportunity to make a positive impact on our communities,” Fiedler said. “Treating these youth in the juvenile system helps reduce recidivism, and provides teens the tools they need to be contributing members of society.”

    Currently, Wisconsin is one of only nine states that treat all 17-year-olds as adults.

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