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Michigan Bills to ‘Raise the Age’ for Adult Prosecution Head to Governor

October 16, 2019

Detroit Free Press

Angie Jackson

Bipartisan legislation headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk would raise the age at which teenagers are automatically prosecuted as adults in Michigan.

Michigan is currently one of four states that treat all 17-year-olds charged with crimes as adults, regardless of their offense. The “Raise the Age” legislation would increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18, meaning that cases involving 17-year-olds would be handled in the juvenile justice system. This would keep them out of prison and give them more access to services to help them stay out of trouble.

Advocates have pointed to statistics that illustrate how funneling youth through the criminal justice system and incarcerating them among adults can be detrimental to their health and safety, and also increase recidivism.

The Senate on Wednesday approved a multi-bill package that now heads to Whitmer. The governor’s administration supports “the overall goal” of the legislation, said Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown.

The reform garnered backing from the business community, law enforcement, prosecutors, court administrators, and organizations such as the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Supporters praised the legislation as an improvement for youth and communities.

Leaders of the Detroit Regional Chamber support the legislation from the standpoint that raising the age gives teens a better chance at entering the workforce.

“I think all the evidence suggests that 17-year-olds do better when they’re in the juvenile system,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations with the chamber. “It gives them a better chance to live a life without re-offending, and frankly keeps more doors open for them in the job market. And as we talked to our members, having a broad talent pool is top of mind.”

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