In Blog: Factually Speaking, Kids Count

The Michigan Legislature’s Lame Duck session has certainly had its share of fireworks already, including the efforts to dramatically undermine the minimum wage and paid sick leave proposals, but we want to make sure this important, urgent and bipartisan effort did not get lost in the shuffle. The League, our partners and an extensive, bipartisan group of legislators have been working for years to raise the age of Michigan’s juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old.


17-year-olds are not adults. It’s simple. They can’t vote, serve in the military, sit on a jury, get a tattoo, buy a lotto ticket, or work a full-time job. And thank goodness for that! We need our 17-year-old kids to spend their days in school while they continue to grow and develop their brains.

But there’s a catch.

They’re not adults, but in Michigan, 17-year-olds are AUTOMATICALLY treated as adults in one glaring regard–our criminal justice system. For even minor, nonviolent crimes, a 17-year-old kid will be sent to court as an adult. This is an antiquated policy that began in a time when most kids completed school in eighth grade, and when most boys worked full time at the age of 17.

Republicans. Democrats. Police officers. Judges. Parents. Teenagers. Finding common ground is tough in 2018, so when something has support from pretty much everyone in the room, we need to pay attention. And that’s the kind of support Raise the Age has.

There are just a few weeks left to make sure 17-year-olds are treated in the juvenile justice system from now on. We need you to help us by taking action today!

And it’s not just the League encouraging you help Raise the Age. It’s folks on both sides of the aisle and in every facet of the system. Here’s just a sampling of their views:

“We have a responsibility and moral obligation to get this figured out and implement responsible, smart and forward-looking policy – for our kids, for our communities, for our public safety, and for our strong, shared future.” – John Evans, retired court administrator, Livingston County

“Only four states automatically prosecute 17-year-olds as adults. Unfortunately, Michigan is one of them, and it does so regardless of the severity of the crime. This public policy is not sustainable. It’s out-of-step with best practices, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and Michigan law. On top of that, the punishment is cruel, discriminatory, and counter-productive. Approximately two-thirds of Michigan youth prosecuted as adults were convicted of non-violent offenses that did not include weapons.” – Detective Sergeant Theodore Nelson, retired, Michigan State Police

“Seventeen is still too young to automatically treat a convict as an adult. Judges should have the discretion to consider individual factors in deciding the right path for each defendant.” The Detroit News Editorial Board

“If we can intervene at an earlier age, send them to juvenile facilities, and hopefully correct whatever antisocial behavior they may have, whether that’s stealing a pack of gum, or driving 70 mph in a 25 mph speeding zone, then that’s to the benefit” State Representative Martin Howrylak (R),

“The adult system puts youth at greater risk for sexual assault, violence and self-harm, without giving them the proper assistance and skills needed to re-enter society. These circumstances do not prepare 17-year-olds for a successful life after their sentence. Rather, they disrupt their development and prospects for rehabilitation.” – Tom Hickson, Michigan Catholic Conference

“In Michigan, half of 17-year-olds who are pushed into the adult justice system are youth of color, yet they make up less than one-fourth of the population. When someone ends up tangled in the criminal justice system, it increases their risk of poor health outcomes – not just for themselves, but also for their families and for our whole community.We believe it’s possible to keep our communities safe and healthy, and it starts by eliminating automatic adult prosecution for Michigan’s kids.” – Renee Canady, CEO, Michigan Public Health Institute

“[Raising the age] is an opportunity to give thousands of children a healthier, more productive future while making our communities safer and more financially secure. We should take it.” Kahryn Riley, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

“In my opinion, it’s the right thing to do to raise the age to 18. It’s very, very problematic to house these kids in our facility and in my opinion it really does them no good.” -Sheriff Scott Wregglesworth, Ingham County

“Seventeen-year olds who are convicted as adults and confined in adult jails and prisons are more likely to experience physical and sexual violence, traumatic isolation, restraint and suicide than youth with similar offenses placed in juvenile facilities. In addition, a criminal record can create lifelong barriers that limit these kids’ ability to find gainful employment, continue their education, or secure stable housing, making it even more difficult to become productive members of society. Youth prosecuted as adults earn 40% less over their lifetime than youth in the juvenile justice system.” – Reverend Dee Dee Coleman, President of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity

The Raise the Age legislative package took a big step forward last week with the House Law and Justice Committee’s passage of the bills. But there is much more work to be done, as it has to pass the full House and Senate before the Lame Duck legislative session ends in December or we have to start all over. Please help Raise the Age today by contacting your lawmakers and encouraging them to support Michigan kids and families.

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