The House Judiciary Committee recently approved state Rep. Julie Calley’s plan to improve the way 17-year-olds are treated in Michigan’s criminal justice system.
Calley, who sponsored the plan alongside a bipartisan group of her colleagues, said Michigan is one of just four states still requiring all 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults. She said eliminating this outdated practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.
“Juvenile courts are better equipped to educate, protect and rehabilitate teens so they can grow into responsible and productive adults. Unfortunately, 17-year-old offenders in Michigan do not have access to necessary programs, because our law requires that they be charged in adult court,” said Calley, of Portland. “This reform will give prosecutors and judges greater discretion to determine the best course of action for each individual case.”
The proposal would raise the age at which individuals are considered adults for the purposes of prosecuting and adjudicating criminal offenses, allowing 17-year-olds to be treated as minors within the juvenile system in most circumstances beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Prosecutors would continue to have discretion, allowing them to waive minors who commit violent crimes into the adult system when appropriate.
The measure also includes a funding plan to ensure local communities do not incur additional costs associated with keeping 17-year-old offenders in the juvenile system, which is administered at the local level. Funding was the key sticking point that halted similar reform efforts in the past. Calley said the proposal is expected to save public tax dollars over time. Other states that have raised the age have lowered both short-term and long-term costs.
“A tremendous amount of research shows placing 17-year-olds in prison with adults is harmful to their psychological development and hinders their ability to re-enter society and lead successful, productive lives,” said Calley. “This bill package is the right direction for our troubled youth and our state as a whole.”
House Bills 4133-46, 4443 and 4452 now move to the full House for consideration.