KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri is one of five states where 17-year-olds are automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system, along with Georgia, Texas, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Johnny Waller, Jr. is a father of two who proudly holds two degrees, including one from Rockhurst University. His accomplished adulthood is supported by a troubled past. In 1993, he opened fire inside of a mall. He says it was in self-defense. The prosecutor wanted to try him as an adult.
"I was on the ground being kicked and stomped. I had a .380. I pulled out the gun and started firing. I would have ended up getting 60 years and at the time I would have gotten out of prison when I was 74 years old," said Waller Jr.
Waller was tried as a juvenile and spent less than a year in custody. He hopes other teens are also given a second chance.
Daniela Velazquez with the ACLU said they're working with Missouri legislators to change Missouri law so children are treated as children in the criminal justice system.
"One of our big focuses is in reducing mass incarceration by ending the school to prison pipeline and this addresses one of those issues. The earlier someone engages with the criminal justice system the more likely they are to re-engage," said Velazquez.
Faith and community leaders in Kansas City will talk about fighting mass incarceration and expanding ban the box on Tuesday, Jan. 17th at Crossroads Church as 7917 Main Street in Kansas City.