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Missouri Bill Would Change How Minors Are Charged with Crimes

Missouri Capitol Building
Missouri Statehouse in Jefferson City

Nine people testified during a house committee meeting Tuesday evening, on behalf of a bill that would change how minors are charged with crimes.

The bill, which would be enacted in 2021, requires individuals under the age of 18 to be tried as juveniles for most crimes, unless they are certified as an adult.

Minors could still be charged as adults for violent or serious crimes such as murder or robbery.

Senator Wayne Wallingford, the bill’s sponsor, believes the legislation could help Missourians in multiple ways.

“I had three goals in mind with this bill. First of all, to save our youth. Second: to make Missouri safer and finally to save taxpayer dollars through less costs and having more income producing citizens,” Wallingford said.

According to Wallingford, Missouri is only one of five states that has yet to raise the age for juvenile court jurisdiction.   

The Senate passed the legislation unanimously in early March, with a vote of 31-0. It also received ample support during its public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Helen Sloan, a resident of St. Louis, spoke in support of the bill saying throwing money into Missouri’s prison system is not the answer.

“We can’t afford to keep spending money on prison and detention and punishment at the expense of educating our young people,” Sloan said.

While she approved of the intent of the bill, Representative Gina Mitten expressed concern over the bill’s funding because of the increased cost of the juvenile system in a tight budget year. Mitten said she did not want to mandate a policy that could potentially not be funded and wished this policy would have been discussed during the budget process.  

At least two proposed house bills would also require those under 18 to be tried as juveniles, but neither bill has advanced as far as the Senate legislation.

Sarah Kellogg is a first year graduate student at the University of Missouri studying public affairs reporting. She spent her undergraduate days as a radio/television major and reported for KBIA. In addition to reporting shifts, Sarah also hosted KBIA’s weekly education show Exam, was an afternoon newscaster and worked on the True/False podcast. Growing up, Sarah listened to episodes of Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! with her parents during long car rides. It’s safe to say she was destined to end up in public radio.