Texas remains one of four states where 17-year-olds will be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Criminal justice groups are once again pushing efforts to “Raise the Age” of criminal responsibility.  

During the 86th Legislature, Texas legislators filed bills related to the way the state currently treats 17-year olds as adults when they commit crimes. House Bill 344 was a bill that would’ve raised the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18.

Seventeen-year-olds would have access to specific age-appropriate programs and services. However, that bill, along with several others aiming to raise the age never made it through the full legislative process. 

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition held an event at the Texas State Capitol Tuesday with criminal justice reform experts and those directly impacted by the current law. Jose Flores, who was arrested at 17 for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, spoke about his experiences in the adult justice system. 

“We always think that jail or prison are going to help folks,” he said. “It didn’t help me any. If anything, it made my substance abuse and my mental health disorders worse.” 

Critics of raising the age say this would add increased costs to the juvenile justice system. 

The Texas Legislature will meet again in 2021.