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Raise the Age bills on their way to governor’s desk

The Michigan State Capitol.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The governor will now have to decide if the criminal justice system should stop automatically treating 17-year-olds as adults.

A bipartisanpackage of bills is now headed to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk. They would still give prosecutors discretion to charge 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes, but that would no longer be the way they are automatically treated.

Bill sponsor, Senator Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) said the change is overdue.

“It shows how bipartisanship works in the state of Michigan,” Santana said. “It shows that advocacy groups, it shows that counties can come together, we can all come to the table to make real changes for our district and also our state as a whole.”

Michigan is one of four states that automatically treats its 17-year-olds as adults, and the sentiment that the change is long overdue was echoed by Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township).

“My analogy was taking a child who was 17 and putting them into a shark tank,” Lucido said. “So you got a guppy going into a shark tank. There’s just no reason for this and other states have proven that it does work. Why not us?”

Counties had expressed concerns over how to pay for the change. Right now, counties and the state split the cost of juvenile justice 50-50, but an arrangement in the bills would have the state paying for the whole thing for the first few years. The State Budget Office has raised concerns about long term costs.

Whitmer’s administration is reviewing the final versions of the bills.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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