COLUMBIA, S.C. — Big changes in store for our state Monday. 17-year-olds who commit crimes will no longer be considered adults, instead juveniles thanks to the Raise the Age law.
"We all have done things in our past especially when we were children," Department of Juvenile Justice Director Freddie Pough said.
Soon enough 17-year-olds will have an opportunity to get back on the right path before they turn 18.
"It takes sometimes a little longer for some of us to grow up so I think it's a good thing to give that demographic an opportunity to be served in the family court," Pough said.
Raise the Age is a bill that was approved three years ago. It raises the age from 16 to 17 to be considered a juvenile. Depending on the offenses, a 17-year-old who commits a crime will not be tried as an adult after July 1.
Pough is all for the new law, but said there may be some speed bumps along the way.
"Definitely stressed," Pough said.
There will most likely be an influx of juveniles inside their DJJ facilities.
"It's going to be a paradigm shift, so for a little while there is going to be a huge influx, potentially I should say, potentially," Pough said. "We just have to see how it all plays out but what we anticipate is July 1 will happen and we will gradually see our numbers increase."
As they prepare for the change Pough wants to remind people this is to help, not a free pass.
"Young people shouldn't look at it as an opportunity as a grace period, but an opportunity for another year to be served in family court," Pough said.
Meanwhile Juvenile Investigator Jacob Hammond said he is all about programs the DJJ has in place like prevention and intervention services.
"If we can shock them then it will stop them," Hammond said. "If they get a dose of reality or a reality check they might say we don't want this way of life."
He does have some concerns though.
"In my years of experience I feel like there is a jump between a 16 and 17-year-old," Hammond said. "17-year-olds seem to commit more offenses then 16-year-olds."
But Pough is hopeful.
"With change brings opportunity, so we welcome this as an opportunity to advance the state of South Carolina," Pough said.
The law was passed three years ago, but lawmakers did that intentionally to make sure everything was in place for when it did finally go into effect.