Rep. Whiteford: ‘Raise the Age’ reforms approved by House committee

Categories: Whiteford News

Plan ends policy requiring 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in court

The House Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved state Rep. Mary Whiteford’s plan to improve the way 17-year-olds are treated in Michigan’s criminal justice system.

Whiteford, 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 – even those who commit the most minor offenses. She said eliminating this outdated practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.

“Sending young people to serve in adult prisons alongside hardened criminals is not the right approach,” said Whiteford, of Casco Township. “The juvenile justice system is better equipped to help 17-year-olds get back on the right track, so they’re less likely to reoffend in the future.”

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 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.

Whiteford said the proposal is expected to save public tax dollars over time. Other states that have raised the age have downsized their juvenile justice systems and lowered both short-term and long-term costs. 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 now move to the full House for consideration.

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