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Vermont pauses plan to consider 19-year-olds as juveniles

October 6, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont plans to halt legislation that would change the way the state’s criminal justice system handles 18- and 19-year-old criminal offenders because state officials said some young offenders are too dangerous to be treated as juveniles.

The state became the first in the U.S. last year when it passed the law known as Raise the Age, which treats 18-year-olds as juvenile offenders instead of adults. The reform would also include 19-year-old offenders, Vermont Public Radio reported.

But Gov. Phil Scot’s administration said it has concerns with the law including 19-year-olds.

“There was a level of dangerousness there that we do not have the expertise to manage as a juvenile system,” Sean Brown, commissioner of the Department for Children and Families said.

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The administration also said it wants to reform the youth offender program, which allows for people as old as 22 to through confidential proceedings in family court, instead of the adult court system.

Brown said the reform would allow an assessment to decide who is eligible for youth offender status, instead of prosecutors and judges.

Washington County, state’s attorney Rory Thibault, said a potential new path through the criminal justice system would allow 19 to 25 to process as adults but give them the same confidentiality in the juvenile system.