Connecticut is one of three states that treats 16 and 17 year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. That is scheduled to change next year, but Governor Rell wants to hold off for two more years because of the budget crisis.
The so-called Raise the Age law passed in 2007. It does not apply to juveniles facing the most serious felony charges like murder. Youth charged with less severe crime, though, would no longer go through the adult system. Abby Anderson is with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance. She told the Judiciary Committee that an adult prison is no place for them.
"In the adult system, there are neither the programs and services, neither are there people equipped to provide those programs and services, because as good intentioned as they might be, they don't have the training and they do not have the understanding of the difference between adults and young people."
She urged against any delay. So did the state child advocate, who testified that around 300 girls and 600 boys who are under 18 have spent time in adult prison.
But those within the court system acknowledge that more technical policy changes are necessary to prepare for the switch.
Frank Corino is a juvenile prosecutor with the Chief State's Attorney's Office.
"This initiative cannot succeed without adequate resources for all agencies and programs involved. Given the state's current fiscal situation, the delay proposed in these bills would appear to be unavoidable."
Towns and cities are also lobbying for more time. Connecticut Conference of Municipalities director Jim Finley says they just can't afford the change now.
"To add a new responsibility to police departments at this time is unfair, particularly when the state isn't contributing a dime."
A compromise bill is also before the Judiciary committee - one that would start transitioning 16 year-olds next year, and wait on the 17 year-olds.