Jonathan's Law clears hurdle - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Jonathan's Law clears hurdle

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

A Heartland mother continues her effort to keep Missouri teenagers out of adult prisons. Tracy McClard of Jackson is working with State Representative Wayne Wallingford on House Bill 2038 or "Jonathan's Law."

Jonathan McClard was convicted of shooting another teenager in Jackson. He killed himself behind bars, his mom says, because of his fear of being sent to an adult prison. Jonathan's Law would not keep kids who've done wrong out of jail but would take into consideration their age and vulnerability in where they are incarcerated.

McClard and Wallingford are in favor of sending teen offenders to a facility in Montgomery City, Missouri specifically for kids who have been tried as adults.  According to McClard, facilities like this offer counseling, education and, basically, a second chance for teen offenders.  She says, by going to an adult prison, the child becomes prey for the adult prisoners.

The law, if passed, would do three things:

1) Give kids initial evaluation and hold judges accountable. In Missouri, a child has access to dual jurisdiction (a program run by Department of Youth Services for kids certified as adults which provides education, counseling, restitution and family support) if a judge issues a court order for an evaluation. After the evaluation, DYS gives a recommendation to the judge. The judge can accept or deny the recommendation.

Jonathan's Law would allow every child in Missouri certified as an adult after being arrested on a criminal offense will get an initial evaluation by DYS. Also, if DYS recommends they put into dual jurisdiction and a judge denies that request, the judge must put the reason into writing.

2) Jonathan's Law would give DYS until the child turns 17 years and 6 months to complete the evaluation. Currently, the cutoff is 17.

3) It would change the "once an adult, always an adult" rule in Missouri which keeps youth in adult courts once they are certified. The law would take that away and if a child is found not guilty, they would not be kept in adult court. Only if a child is charged and convicted as an adult will they remain in adult court.

Jonathan's Law has made it out of a House committee and will now move on to a Senate Committee.  Wallingford co-sponsored House Bill 2038 and says it has gotten over-whelming support in Jefferson City. 

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