Bipartisan plan would treat 17-year-olds as minors
LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan plan recently introduced in the state Senate would raise the age of legal adulthood within the state’s court system, establishing 17-year-olds as minors in most instances, said Sens. Peter J. Lucido, R-Shelby Township, and Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, during a Wednesday press conference.
The plan would divert youth from the adult criminal justice system to punish and help rehabilitate them through the juvenile justice system, which legislators say is the best option and a more effective way to treat young offenders.
“In my experience working in the legal profession for more than 30 years, in most cases, crimes committed by youth who are 17 and younger happened because they didn’t know better and made a dumb mistake,” said Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Chairman Lucido. “Of course, this does not mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions — they definitely should. But outside of violent criminal offenses, in most cases they certainly shouldn’t be treated as if they were an adult.”
The 14-bill “Raise the Age” plan would amend or add to various parts of the state’s Probate Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Juvenile Diversion Act, the Youth Rehabilitation Act, the Mental Health Code, and the Indigent Defense Commission Act, and it would formally recognize that a 17-year-old should be considered a juvenile for purposes of adjudication or prosecution of criminal offenses.
“When we deny our troubled youth an opportunity to reform themselves and do better, it’s clear that the pipeline to prison needs to end and policies need to be reworked,” Santana said. “These bills are the reforms that Michigan’s judicial system needs, and I intend to ensure they become reality and passed into law.”
The plan would still allow for 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in violent criminal offenses.
“Running a kid through the judicial system as an adult sets them up for failure in terms of recidivism and reintegration,” Lucido said. “If we can help these kids get their lives back on track by treating them like the youth that they are, they will have a better chance at a better outcome. That’s not only good for them, it’s good for society and for the taxpayer.”
Corrections spending today is nearly seven times the amount that was spent in the 1970s, and the state prison population has more than doubled since that period.
“Housing, feeding, and treating inmates takes a tremendous amount of money and manpower,” Lucido said. “Rehabilitating criminals and reintroducing them as productive members of the workforce is necessary for the long-term wellbeing of the individual and also the state budget.”
Michigan is one of only four states that prosecute 17-year-olds as adults. Statistics show that states that have enacted similar raise-the-age laws have experienced a significant decrease in juvenile court referrals and recidivism.
Senate Bills 84 and 90-102 have been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee for consideration.
Photo caption: Sen. Peter J. Lucido speaks at a press conference to announce a bipartisan plan recently introduced in the state Senate that would raise the age of legal adulthood within the state’s court system, establishing 17-year-olds as minors in most instances. Pictured are, from left, Sens. Ruth Johnson, Adam Hollier, Michael MacDonald, Curtis Hertel, Lucido, and Sylvia Santana.