Raise the Age

Texas Appleseed worked on Raise the Age as part of a coalition with other Texas organizations. During our work on this, Texas was one of only seven states where 17-year-olds who were accused of committing a crime were automatically placed into the adult criminal justice system rather than the juvenile system, regardless of the offense. Now, Texas is one of only a few states that have not raised the age.

We advocated that 17-year-olds should be treated like their 16-year-old counterparts; these high schoolers more closely resemble their younger peers than older youth. Seventeen-year-olds are not able to vote, serve in the military, or serve on juries and should not be treated as adults for purposes of criminal prosecutions.

When Texas Appleseed looked at arrests and jail bookings among 17-year-olds in Texas, from 2012-2015, the data showed that the majority of 17-year-olds were arrested for low-level misdemeanor offenses. The top two offenses leading to arrests of 17-year-olds were theft (20.8% of offenses) and drug possession (19.1%). For drug offenses, 75.5% of arrests were for marijuana possession.

Raising the age would have ensured that 17-year-olds who are charged with a criminal offense were treated in a developmentally appropriate way. While we did not achieve reform of this issue, we continue to work on protecting the rights of children and youth in the justice system. We also continue to support our partners in their efforts to change Texas law and raise the age to 18.