Legislation ends policy requiring 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in court
State Rep. Jack O’Malley today voted to end the policy requiring all 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in Michigan’s criminal justice system.
The plan was overwhelmingly approved by the Michigan House and now advances to the Senate for consideration.
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. O’Malley said eliminating this ineffective practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.
“All of the research shows that 17-year-olds fare much better in the juvenile system, where the focus is on rehabilitation, as opposed to serving hard time in adult prison,” said O’Malley, of Lake Ann. “Updating our policies to reflect this will give teenagers who make mistakes a chance to straighten out their lives.”
Including 17-year-olds in the juvenile system has been shown to reduce reoffending by 34 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
House Bills 4133-46, 4443 and 4452 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 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.
O’Malley 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, decreases in the number of reoffending youth and declines in judicial costs after raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18.