It is fascinating to consider the age at which people consider teens to be adults. In the many states in the United States, one can drive a car on an interstate highway at 16, vote, go to war and die for your country at 18, but you must be 21 to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. This rather confusing breakdown of when “adulthood” kicks in, is at it’s most controversial when it comes to the issue of charging teens as adults.
Right now in Michigan, the age at which a person is considered to be an adult when it comes to charging them with crimes, is 17. But that might be about to change. A bipartisan bill package is currently making it’s way through the Michigan legislature, and if it’s approved, Michigan’s adult criminal age will be raised to 18.
Changes well received by the House
The changes, which are being spearheaded by Representative Harvey Santana, have been well received in the Republican-controlled House thus far. Every one of the bills was supported by at least 90 of the 110 members of the House, which is encouraging for supporters of the bills. However, the bill package must still make it’s way across the Senate floor before it has a chance to be viewed by the Governor.
According to Rep.Santana in his address to the House about this topic, seventeen-year-olds are not adults and shouldn’t be treated as if they were. Michigan laws, he said, are outdated, and do not reflect the nation’s best practices.
“When you put 17-year-olds into the adult prison system, you end up with better criminals, more recidivism and more hardened individuals who will only come back to repeat and increase crime in our streets.” says Representative Kurt Heise, who supports the House’s “smart justice” agenda.
Although the age at which teens will be considered adults will change from 17 to 18 of the new law passes, that isn’t the only issue being addressed by this 20-bill package. Other changes specified in the bills include prohibiting juveniles from being detained in adult facilities and specifying 17-year-olds as juveniles. In addition, judges would no longer be required to consider a juvenile’s prior record when determining if they should be sentenced as an adult.
This reform, which is happening on a national scale, is commonly referred to as “Raise the Age.” This year alone, Michigan is one of five states around the US, along with Louisiana, Wisconsin, New York, and South Carolina, to introduce legislation that would return 17-year-old offenders to the juvenile system. This trend is expected to continue, with more and more states recognizing the fact that 17-year-olds are not adults and shouldn’t be incarcerated as adults.