Michigan legislators have passed the “Raise the Age” bill. Here’s what you should know.
This historic bill will raise the age limit for the adult criminal justice system. Previously, 17 year olds convicted of a crime would be tried as adults and could face prison time or worse. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill into law in 2019 with the hope that it would make Michigan’s justice system more fair for younger offenders.
Supporters of the bill believe that it will revolutionize the way juveniles are treated in the justice system and hope that it will lead to positive change for communities throughout the state.
Jason Smith, Executive Director with Michigan Center for Youth Justice sees this as an opportunity to help troubled teenagers find peace and rehabilitation instead of cutting their opportunities short by putting them in an adult prison.
Smith says that the program will give him and others the ability to provide treatment and programs to kids who need it. These programs will be targeted to those who need an extra hand in becoming a member of society. They will be age and developmentally appropriate for the kids and cater to their needs throughout the rehabilitation process.
Like many others, Smith believes that children who can’t vote or drink shouldn’t be put in facilities with adults. These kids have a better chance of reintegrating into society and leaving criminality behind.
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In general, the juvenile justice system is very different from what most people understand to be the “criminal justice system.” For starters, the juvenile system focuses on reeducation and reintegration over punishment.
When an adult commits a crime, the justice system treats them as though they are irredeemable and passes down a sentence meant as a punishment to discourage future criminal behavior. Prison, fines, and death row are intense punishments meant to make an example out of offenders.
The juvenile system on the other hand, sees offenders as clay that can be molded and reshaped to fit within societal norms. Instead of punishment, juvenile offenders are directed to programs and rehabilitation centers to help them cope with traumas that may have contributed to their actions. In many cases, the judge may remove a child from their home if it becomes clear that the parents are a contributing factor.
Another key difference between the adult and juvenile justice systems is how the cases are prosecuted. In an adult trial, the prosecutor will provide evidence to convince the jury and judge that the defeandant committed the crime. In juvenile hearings, the judge wil determine whether the child understood that their actions were wrong or if they acted out because an adult forced them to. If the child is not aware of the gravity of their actions, the judge may choose to send them to a rehabilitation center and counselor. If parents or guardians ar e the problem, the judge would take the child out of the home.
Rarely will a judge send a juvenile offender to adult court. This only happens if the judge believes that the child knowingly carried out the crime and intended to cause harm. For teenagers in Michigan, this will be the only way they could ever be tried as adults.
Protecting Your Future
A crime shouldn’t follow you forever. For juvenile offenders, a mistake could mean no college, and a hard time finding a job. At White Law, PLLC we believe that everyone deserves a second chance and the opportunity to succeed.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a juvenile crime, contact White Law PLLC as soon as possible.