We produced a report evaluating the health and equity impacts of charging 17-year-olds in juvenile court rather than adult court in Michigan. We also mobilized public health to join the campaign to pass Raise the Age legislation in Michigan.
Progress Update: We Did It!
On October 31, 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation increasing the jurisdiction of juvenile court to age 18. Because of the efforts of organizers and impacted families, Michigan is finally off the short list of states with antiquated laws that allow 17-year-old young people to be automatically treated as adults for any offense. The law is set to take effect on October 1, 2021.
We partnered with juvenile justice reformers in Michigan to strategically bring a public health perspective into their campaign to pass Raise the Age legislation in Michigan.
All kids deserve the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives. Yet Michigan puts kids at risk by being 1 of only 5 states that still automatically try 17-year-old arrestees as adults in criminal court. As a result, 17-year-olds in Michigan are subjected to a harsh criminal justice system that separates them from their families and limits their access to the services and education they need to rehabilitate.
In 2016, Michigan police made 7,215 arrests of 17-year-olds — more than 80% of these arrests were for nonviolent offenses, and more than half were considered misdemeanors. Though many of the kids involved in the criminal justice system have experienced extreme hardship, they are resilient and can turn their lives around. They deserve attention and treatment, not incarceration.
Our work consisted of two parts:
- Our research report evaluated the health and equity impacts of charging 17-year-olds in juvenile court rather than adult court, to inform legislation under consideration in Michigan that would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age.
- In partnership with Michigan juvenile justice reformers, public health practitioners, and community organizers, we mobilized health professionals as a constituency to advocate for passing Raise The Age legislation — with the goal of advancing criminal justice reforms that place health and wellbeing at their center.