Bills that would raise the age of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction from 17 to 18-years-old are one step closer to the governor’s desk.
It means that 17-year-olds would no longer be automatically tried as adults or placed with adults in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors would still have discretion to charge them as adults based on the offense.
The bills passed out of a committee chaired by Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) Thursday. He says he has been working on these changes for five years.
“I think we’re all doing a very good thing, and it’s the best bill that we could possibly have come out of committee, go to the floor, and eventually get signed into law I hope,” he told reporters.
Getting the bills to this point came down to a compromise between state lawmakers and counties over the cost of adding more people to the juvenile system.
Meghann Keit is with the Michigan Association of Counties. She says the needs of juveniles in the system cost more money for things like rehabilitation programs.
“Without something in this package that would be able to provide the funding that we need and the mechanism for funding that we need, counties just could not bear the additional cost that this would have put on them,” says Keit.
For the first few years of the change, the state would pay for all 17-year-olds in the juvenile system. That’s to give counties a better idea of how much the change would cost. Then the funding would be reevaluated.
“We got there, and we were able to produce a good product to make sure that the funding was available and adequate and we could implement this policy as effectively as possible,” Keit says.
House and Senate versions of the Raise the Age bills exist, however, the House bills now have all the changes, with the compromise with the counties. Those bills are waiting for a full floor vote in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has said these bills are a priority. If they pass in the Senate, they’d need a final procedural vote in the House before heading to the governor’s desk.