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Michigan's Raise the Age bills on their way to governor’s desk

The governor will now have to decide if the criminal justice system should stop automatically treating 17-year-olds as adults.

A bipartisan package of bills is now headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk. They would still give prosecutors discretion to charge 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes, but that no longer would be the way they are automatically treated.

Bill sponsor, Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) is a bill sponsor and says the change is overdue.

“It shows how bipartisanship works in the state of Michigan,” Santana says. “It shows that advocacy groups, it shows that counties can come together, we can all come to the table to make real changes for our district and also our state as a whole.”

Michigan is one of four states that automatically treats its 17-year-olds as adults, and the sentiment that the change is long overdue was echoed by Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township).

“My analogy was taking a child who was 17 and putting them into a shark tank,” says Lucido. “So you got a guppy going into a shark tank. There’s just no reason for this and other states have proven that it does work. Why not us?”

Counties had expressed concerns over how to pay for the change. Right now, counties and the state split the cost of juvenile justice 50-50, but an arrangement in the bills would have the state paying for the whole thing for the first few years. The State Budget Office has raised concerns about long term costs. Whitmer’s administration is reviewing the final versions of the bills.