juvenile offenders

Starting in October 2021, 17-year-olds will no longer automatically be treated as adults in Michigan’s criminal justice system. 


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

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.

Courtesy of the Tholen family

 

(Editor's note: We recommend you listen to the story before reading.)

It was December when Rick Tholen was killed. He was working at M&J Grocery in Grand Rapids.

He’d just graduated college and was in his first year of teaching high school English. And he’d decided to take some shifts over Christmas break for extra cash. He was getting married soon.

Courtesy of Penni Johnson

 

He was born April 29th, 1976. His parents named him James Dean Fuson.

James’ mom died when he was seven, and his dad left the picture after that. His maternal grandparents, Delores and Wallace Bach, raised him alongside his aunt, Penni, in southwest Detroit.

In the beginning, he called them Granny and Pee Wee. Then teenage self-consciousness got the better of him, and he switched to Grandma and Gramps.

“I was eight years older than him,” says his aunt Penni Bach Johnson. “And I remember I used to babysit him a lot. I used to change his diapers. He was like my little brother.”

 

The 2012 Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama held that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional.