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Michigan would stop charging, imprisoning 17-year-olds as adults under bills

Oct 6, 2015

State Rep. Harvey Santana at a press conference in Lansing Tuesday.
Credit Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

Michigan would stop automatically charging 17-year-olds as adults under new bills in the state House.

The bipartisan legislation would prohibit placing people under 18 years old in adult prisons and jails. Any teenager could still be charged as an adult for violent crimes such as murder.

Sponsors say putting minors in adult jails and prisons keeps them from the rehabilitative services they need.

“We’ve got to remember we’re talking about a child,” said State Representative Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), who is leading the effort in the state House.

“What good does that serve that child? What help are we really providing that child? And who are we as a state to continue that practice in this era of corrections reform.”

Santana says it’s also a safety issue.

“As it relates to 17-year-olds, I think (prison is) probably even more dangerous for them because we’re talking about children, and we’re talking about kids who are going to be victimized by predators.”

The legislation would also increase the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old.

Bill sponsors say there are about 600 17-year-olds in Michigan’s corrections system.