Juvenile Offender Bill

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Puberty has barely sunk in for these 12 and 13-year-olds and already they're getting into some major trouble. While their crimes are far from childish, the court considers them kids until 17. But now State house leaders want to expand the juvenile umbrella to include those who are 18.

"People that are living that crime life and they're 17 going onto 18 they're gonna cop out right away and want to go on adult parole rather than juvenile parole," says Joseph Garza.

Garza has been through the prison system both as a juvenile and adult. He says this new bill is a bad idea since younger offenders can wind up serving longer sentences than adults.

"When I was 19 I wanted to hurry up and get of juvenile parole and I was still getting into trouble I got caught with a gun and I hurried up took a year and a half and got out in 61 days for when I was a juvenile I did 12 months for a gun," Garza says.

220 juveniles like Garza are seen by four probation officers in Stephenson County. So if 18-year-old are added into the mix, their workload would increase 22-percent.

"It's gonna be almost impossible for us as a department to do this service we're supposed to be doing and take care of the clients were supposed to," says Darrell Pauley, Director of Probation in Stephenson County.

Pauley says it costs nearly double to house a juvenile than it does an adult. That coupled with varying maturity levels make other local leaders agree.

"17-year-olds are more adult than youth and there are crimes they should be treated as adults and i think that's the way the law should stay," says Rep. Jim Sacia.

Proponents say sending 18-year-olds to juvy would keep them from committing more crimes. But that's not the case for Garza. Since his weekends are now spent living at the Stephenson County Jail for battery and reckless driving.