We encourage Gov. Mike Parson to sign crime measures that would offer several protections to juveniles in the criminal justice system.
One measure would allow inmates who were given life sentences as juveniles to be eligible for parole after 15 years of time served. The law would not apply to those convicted of murder.
The Missouri Independent reported the measure was inspired by the case of Bobby Bostic, who has been imprisoned since 1997 in the Jefferson City Correctional Center for two armed robberies he committed when he was 16. No one was seriously injured, but he was still sentenced to 241 years in prison and would not be eligible for parole until 2091.
The bill would not apply to Alyssa Bustamante, the local woman who, at the age of 15, was convicted of murdering her 9-year-old neighbor Elizabeth Olten in St. Martins.
The Independent reported another bill would fund a law passed in 2018 to stop automatically charging 17-year-olds as adults. Missouri has already passed such the measure, but it has gone unfunded. So only two counties have started processing 17-year-olds through juvenile systems.
The bill includes $17 million in funding for the program.
The Legislature also approved a bill that will prevent children as young as 12 who have been certified as adults from being held in adult jails while awaiting their court dates.
Another bill would deal with the issue of children waiving their right to counsel.
Under the pending law, courts must do a serious review if children facing felonies waive their right to counsel, the Independent reported.
Juveniles who commit serious crimes should face serious punishment. But we have to remember they're still juveniles, and it doesn't always make sense to lock them up with adults and throw away the key.
These crime bills dealing with juveniles don't go soft on crime, but they strike a good balance between justice and offering protections for offenders who are not yet adults.
We urge the governor to sign the measures.