‘Youthful offenders’ being recruited for crimes, governor says
By Guy Page
On May 20, Governor Phil Scott vetoed a bill that raises from age 19 to 20 the age of public accountability for crimes.
“We need to step back and reassess Vermont’s ‘raise the age’ policy,” Scott said in a letter to the Vermont Senate explaining the veto.
S107, as passed by the Legislature, would prevent a public agency from releasing any information about the arrest or charge of a person less than 20 years old. Current law shields persons less than 19 years old. Scott also said the State of Vermont has failed to deliver on promises to provide rehabilitation, services and housing for young adults at risk of being in the criminal justice system.
Scott’s letter to the Senate appears below:
I am returning S.107, An act relating to confidential information concerning the initial arrest and charge of a juvenile, without my signature, because of concerns with the policy to automatically raise the age of accountability for crimes, and afford young adults protections meant for juveniles, without adequate tools or systems in place.
Three years ago, I signed legislation intended to give young adults who had become involved in the criminal justice system certain protections meant for juveniles. At the time, I was assured that, prior to the automatic increases in age prescribed in the bill, plans would be in place to provide access to the rehabilitation, services, housing and other supports needed to both hold these young adults accountable and help them stay out of the criminal justice system in the future.
This has not yet been the case. In addition to ongoing housing challenges, programs designed and implemented for children under 18 are often not appropriate for those over 18. Disturbingly, there are also reports of some young adults being used – and actively recruited – by older criminals, like drug traffickers, to commit crimes because of reduced risk of incarceration, potentially putting the young people we are trying to protect deeper into the criminal culture and at greater risk.
I want to be clear: I’m not blaming the Legislature or the Judiciary for these gaps. All three branches of government need to bring more focus to this issue if we are going to provide the combination of accountability, tools and services needed to ensure justice and give young offenders a second chance.
For these reasons, I believe we need to take a step back and assess Vermont’s “raise the age” policy, the gaps that exist in our systems and the unintended consequences of a piecemeal approach on the health and safety of our communities, victims and the offenders we are attempting to help. I see S.107 as deepening this piecemeal approach.
I also remain concerned with the lack of clarity in S.107 regarding the disparity in the public records law between the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Based on the objections outlined above, I am returning this legislation without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution. I believe this presents an opportunity to start a much-needed conversation about the status of our juvenile justice initiatives and make course corrections where necessary, in the interest of public safety and the young Vermonters we all agree need an opportunity to get back on the right path.
Scott signed the following bills:
- H.421, An act relating to animal cruelty investigation response and training.
- S.1, extending the baseload renewable power portfolio requirement. This bill continues power subsidies for the Ryegate biomass power plant.
- S.66, electric bicycles, ensures that electric-powered bicycles are treated as bicycles and not motorcycles for licensing and law enforcement purposes.
- S.102, regulation of agricultural inputs for farming. This bill allows compost and food scraps to be brought onto farms and used for agriculture.
- S.124, miscellaneous utility subjects: raising the cap on penalties for Public Service Board violations; raises to 185% of federal poverty level the requirement for low-income energy assistance; outlines the state role in overseeing non-federal dams; allows Public Service Board to extend Standard Offer (power subsidies) for projects at its own “good cause” discretion.
To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2021 legislative session, click here.