State Rep. Roger Hauck’s plan to end the policy requiring all 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in Michigan’s criminal justice system is on its way to the governor’s desk.
Hauck said Michigan is one of just four states still requiring all 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults – even those who commit the most minor offenses. He said eliminating this harmful and ineffective practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.
“This isn’t about letting 17-year-olds off easy,” said Hauck, of Union Township. “It’s about placing them in the right environment with the right tools to help them turn their lives around, instead of sending them through the revolving door of the prison system.”
Including 17-year-olds in the juvenile system has been shown to reduce reoffending by 34 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Hauck’s plan 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 in most circumstances beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Prosecutors will 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 any 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.
Hauck said the reform is expected to improve public safety and save public tax dollars over time. Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts are among the states that have experienced millions of dollars in savings and decreases in the number of reoffending youths after raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18.