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Lawmakers open hearings on juvenile justice overhaul

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk

State lawmakers began hearings Tuesday on bills meant to help 17 year olds avoid serving time in adult prisons.

17 year olds would no longer be automatically treated as adults in Michigan’s court system under the legislation. Supporters say the prison system is not equipped to rehabilitate young people.

Jennifer Pilette served for 16 years as a referee on the juvenile court bench in Wayne County.

"It is important that we treat 17 year olds like the children they are, not the adults we fear they will become,” Pilette said.

People under 18 could still be charged as adults for violent crimes such as murder.

Some counties worry the bills would shift costs onto the juvenile justice programs they oversee.