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State House panel approves bills to stop sending 17-year-olds to adult prisons

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel
Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation

Legislation to keep many 17-year-olds from going to adult prisons cleared a state House panel on Tuesday.

Michigan is one of only a handful of states that automatically prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults. The bills would end that practice.

People under 18 could still go to adult prisons for violent crimes such as murder.


State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, is leading the effort. He says it’s one of the most important criminal justice initiatives moving forward in the country.

“And it’s only because we’re so far behind,” Santana told the House Criminal Justice Committee before it held votes Tuesday morning.

“What sense does it make to send a child to an adult prison? What good could become of that?”

Some local governments worry about the cost of housing more juveniles in county jails. Santana says he’s working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to help cover those costs.

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