Gov. Whitmer notches big win for Michigan kids, families and communities with signature of Raise the Age bills
League CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs gives remarks alongside Gov. Whitmer, bipartisan legislators and advocacy partners
LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature into law of the Raise the Age legislation to change Michigan’s age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 years old to 18. Right now, Michigan is one of only four states in the nation that still automatically treat all justice-involved 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of their offense. This puts these kids in danger physically, mentally and emotionally, and harms their educational, professional and financial opportunities.
Raise the Age is a long-awaited change for Michigan kids and has been a big focus of the League and our Kids Count work, and we’re excited to see these bills getting closer to the finish line. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.
“On behalf of all Michigan kids and families, we extend our thanks and appreciation to Gov. Whitmer for taking this important action today to ‘raise the age’ and rightfully treat 17-year-olds as the kids that they are in our justice system,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO for the Michigan League for Public Policy. “This is what a good compromise looks like, both in the substance of the policy and in the widespread and diverse support. With a stroke of her pen today, the governor is taking better care of our youth and families and giving them a brighter future, benefiting our communities and economy in the process.”
“In addition to the direct benefits to Michigan kids and families, with her signature enacting Raise the Age into law, the governor is also enshrining significant societal victories as well as individual ones. Today’s action is a win for child well-being and safety, a win for racial equity, a win for bipartisanship, a win for our local communities and economies, and a win for our national reputation. We are so grateful to all the advocates and policymakers past and present who have made this happen, especially our key advocacy partners at the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Michigan Faith in Action, Safe and Just Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, the Mackinac Center and more.”
FOR ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:
League Testimony on House Bills 4133-4146 (as introduced)
League Owner’s Manual Priority: Give Kids the Keys to a Strong Future
Full Remarks from League CEO Gilda Jacobs given at today’s bill signing and press conference:
It is truly an honor to be with you today, and I’m grateful for all of our partners and the role they played in making this change happen.
Currently (for the next few minutes, at least), Michigan is one of only four states in the nation that still automatically treat all justice-involved 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of their offense.
This puts these kids in danger physically, mentally and emotionally, and harms their educational, professional and financial opportunities for decades to come.
Over the last four years—spanning three legislative sessions—that the Michigan League for Public Policy and our partners have been fighting to Raise the Age, we have heard countless stories on the adverse impact, and at times, absurdity, of how our state was treating 17-year-olds in our justice system.
We heard from numerous young people making youthful mistakes who ended up with adult charges and lifelong repercussions.
We heard from young people who got into fights or who got caught with marijuana or alcohol.
We even heard from a fellow who at 17 was charged as an ADULT for being a minor in possession of tobacco.
Now how does that make sense?
We also heard from parents, who have as much at stake in seeing this law changed as the young people themselves.
We heard from a father whose two sons, aged 16 and 17, were out past curfew, and had dramatically different experiences in the court system for the exact same minor offense.
And we heard from a heartbroken mother whose son was incarcerated in an adult facility hundreds of miles from their home.
These are the voices we heard calling for a change to this law; and these are the voices that have finally been heeded by policymakers these past few months and weeks, and finally, today.
As the governor takes this important and long-awaited step, this is exactly what a good compromise looks like, both in this policy and in this room.
This is certainly a victory for a lot of people, but first and foremost, it is a win for kids and families like these—because starting soon, no one else will have to endure what they’ve gone through.
But with her signature enacting Raise the Age into law, the governor is also enshrining significant societal victories as well as individual ones.
Today’s action is a win for child well-being and safety.
A win for academic and economic opportunity.
A win for racial equity.
A win for bipartisanship.
A win for smart and rehabilitative justice.
A win for our local communities and economies.
And a win for our national reputation.
We are so grateful for all the advocates and policymakers past and present who have made this happen, especially the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Passing Raise the Age has been one of our top policy goals year after year, and we are so pleased to see that dream become a reality.
And we appreciate the governor’s commitment to this issue and willingness to stand up and change this outdated and ineffective law once and for all.
The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Ruth Mott Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.