A package of bills aimed at raising the age Michigan residents can be tried as adults passed out of a House committee Wednesday.
Under current Michigan law, 17-year-olds are automatically tried as adults. The bill package would raise that age to 18 years of age.
Representative Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) spearheaded the legislation. He says a similar bill package failed to pass the Senate two years ago because it didn’t include a funding mechanism. He says this package does.
“So right now, the Child Care Fund reimburses counties 50% for all Child Care Fund cases including foster care and adoption. That would rise up to 68%,” he says.
Howrylak says even if the legislation doesn’t pass during the lame duck session, he thinks there is enough support to bring similar legislation through in the new year.
Jason Smith is the Director of Youth Justice Policy for the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency. The group supports the legislation.
“Michigan is one of only four states in the entire country that still treats 17-year-olds as adults in the justice system no matter what their offense is. It was the right thing to do and the right time to do it,” he says.
Bill sponsors say the legislation also includes increased reimbursement for juvenile justice programs.
Representative Lana Theis (R-Brighton) was one of two “no” votes on the bill package. She says she’s concerned about mixing 17-year-olds with younger juvenile offenders.
“I do have a major concern when we’re moving the 17-year-olds into what is an average population of 14 and going as young as 9,” she says.
Supporters of the legislation say the vast majority of juvenile offenders aren’t placed in facilities together, and instead are out in the community.
They say it should be up to juvenile justice facilities and the courts to decide where individuals should be placed.