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MI Groups Hope "Raise the Age" Gets Year-End Approval

Michigan is one of only four states that automatically prosecutes all 17-year-olds as adults.(Wokandapix/Pixabay)
Michigan is one of only four states that automatically prosecutes all 17-year-olds as adults.
December 10, 2018

LANSING, Mich. – With time short in the lame-duck legislative session, some policy groups and youth advocates are hopeful lawmakers will pass Raise the Age legislation.

Michigan is one of only four states that automatically prosecutes all 17-year-olds as adults. Companion bills that would change that age from 17 to 18 have passed out of a House committee with bipartisan support. Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count project director with the Michigan League for Public Policy, said a full House vote is needed as soon as possible.

"Because of the way that the law is, we do have to get it over to the Senate with five days at least in between,” Guevara Warren said. “So, we're hoping that legislative leaders will see this as a positive thing they can do as they're getting ready to move on, and that they'll prioritize it."

Guevara Warren explained most 17-year-olds have nonviolent charges. And if the measures are passed, those young people would be tried in juvenile court and have access to age-appropriate rehabilitative services.

Deamonte Culbreath of Grand Rapids was charged as an adult for a crime he committed as a youth. Now at age 18, he said that criminal record is making it difficult to create a better future.

"It's always over my head for being charged as an adult for a case that I did when I was a juvenile,” Culbreath said. “So like, picking a career, my dreams that I wanted to follow, I don't know if I'm going to be able to do that because of that charge."

Culbreath said he wishes he had been given an opportunity for rehabilitation instead of time behind bars.

"I wish they would have just understood my situation more. And they would have just gave me another chance, because I really didn't have another chance,” he said. “It was my first felony. I wish they would show me a different way. I was young - I needed more mentoring."

Some of the sticking points of the Raise the Age legislation have been concerns about community safety and costs. Warren explained there will be time to work these issues out.

"There's a two-year delayed implementation period to allow us to really ensure that everyone is prepared for this change,” she said, “because we don't want kids to end up in the system and not receive the treatment that they need because we are not ready to do that."

The final day of this session is December 20.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI