(Lansing, Mich.) – Charging 17-year-olds as adults for small, non-violent crimes does nothing to help troubled youth change their ways and become productive members of society, Michigan Catholic Conference said today as the House Law and Justice Committee passed legislation raising the age for youth sentencing to 18 years old. Michigan is currently one of only four states in the country that continues to automatically charge 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the crime committed.
“For the purpose of providing better rehabilitation options for youth who commit minor, nonviolent crimes, this legislation is a most welcome step in the right direction,” said Tom Hickson, MCC Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. “We applaud Representative Kesto and members of the Law and Justice Committee for their action today. It is our hope the full House will soon take action on these bills as only a small number of days remain in the current legislative session.”
The multi-bill “Raise-the-Age” bipartisan package has been supported by numerous organizations and elected officials since last legislative session, when the bills passed the full House but did not receive action in the Senate. Supporters of the package have argued that Michigan is doing a disservice to its youth as well as its communities by charging 17-year-old kids as adults when they commit a minor crime. These children, according to MCC, would be better served by receiving rehabilitation services than being hardened in an adult facility, more than likely coming out a more dangerous person than when they went in.
“Regrettably, 17-year-olds go in as vulnerable children and are more likely to come out as hardened, better informed criminals,” said Hickson. “As a state we can do better for our youth, especially those who never had a chance to succeed or were raised in an unhealthy environment that never offered guidance or other tools necessary for maturity into adulthood.”
According to the legislation, prosecutors would retain the ability to charge a 17-year-old as an adult if warranted by the crime committed. House Bills 4607, 4653, 4659, 4662, 4664, 4675-4678, 4685, 4696, 4741, 4744, 4753, 4793, 4969, 5637, and 6396 now await consideration from the full House of Representatives.
Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.