Nila Bala, associate director of criminal justice policy at the R Street Institute in Washington, D.C., said it’s time for the state to stop treating minors as adults, adding that the proposed legislation should calm concerns about funding.
“It’s definitely time for Michigan to include 17-years-olds in the juvenile justice system. There is plenty of research and data to suggest their outcomes greatly improve when they’re given the appropriate services as youth, instead of being treated as adults,” she said.
“In terms of the funding mechanism proposed in the bill, cost was the largest concern voiced during testimony to the committee. Most stakeholders said they want to include 17-year-olds in their juvenile justice system but are afraid their county can’t handle the increased number of young people,” Bala said. “The bill responds to this concern by providing two funding options, which gives counties more flexibility in incorporating 17-year-olds into their juvenile system, depending on that particular county’s individual numbers of youth. And it’s important to remember that in other states that have made the same change, the costs they predicted never materialized. Hopefully, the proposed funding mechanisms, combined with the success other states have had, will be enough to get this bill over the finish line.”