Testimony In SUPPORT of House Bills 4133-46 Raise the Age
Chairman Filler and members of the committee:
My name is Jesse Kelley. I manage criminal justice state
policies as a government affairs specialist for the R Street Institute, a
nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to
engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited,
effective government in many areas, including juvenile justice reform. Raise
the Age legislation, such as House Bills 4133-46, is of special interest to us.
The R Street Institute stands in support of Raise the Age
legislation and encourages raising the age of criminal majority so that cases
involving 17-year-olds may remain in the juvenile justice system. Michigan is
one of only four states that treat 17-year-old youths as adults in the criminal
justice system. This practice harms young people, the Michigan economy and
We would like to thank Chairman Graham Filler for his
continued and outspoken support of this legislative effort. We also concur with
the chairman’s statements that the best approach to juvenile detention should
involve rehabilitation, training and educational components.
Each of the bills before the committee today is crucial to
the larger goal of providing successful rehabilitation for justice-involved
youth. We are in support of every bill in the package before the committee
today, which includes raising the age with regard to juvenile court
jurisdiction, eligibility for youthful trainee status, juvenile status of
children found not guilty by reason of insanity, definition of adult in
indigent defense, juvenile jurisdiction in youth rehabilitation services, pre-adjudication
confinement and providing for a Raise the Age Fund.
Our research has shown that children placed in the adult
system are vulnerable to abuse, subjected to solitary confinement and deprived of
age-appropriate services. The R
Street Institute believes that young people must be separated from the adult
criminal justice system in order to preserve their physical and mental health
and foster future economic success.
We all want kids to learn from their mistakes, get an
education and contribute meaningfully to society. The status quo in Michigan
robs 17-year-olds of this opportunity by automatically trying them as adults.
The current, outdated system significantly damages the lives of Michigan kids by
saddling them with permanent adult records.
Opponents have voiced concerns over the potential costs
of treating 17-year-olds as juveniles. However, if this legislation is passed,
research shows that Michigan can expect both long-term economic savings and
public safety benefits.
Although the initial costs of housing these youths in
juvenile facilities may be higher than housing them in adult prisons, a young
person convicted in the adult system can expect to earn 40 percent less over
his or her lifetime. In contrast, youth who were convicted of a crime but did
not go to adult prison have almost as good a chance of finding a job as youths
who never committed a crime. To further ameliorate cost concerns, this proposed
legislation would create a Raise the Age Fund within the state treasury that
would aid in offsetting additional implementation costs.
Raise the Age legislation will cost more upfront. But it
will lead to fewer repeat offenders and fewer people in our jails, which will
save millions in taxpayer dollars, offsetting modest startup costs. Raising the
age will generate $52.3 million in benefits every year from the combined
perspectives of taxpayers, youth and victims. Forty-eight other states have
raised the age because it is worth it economically. Simply put, less crime leads
to public savings and is good for everyone.
Pundits may claim that Raise the Age legislation is “soft
on crime.” We would remind them that the juvenile system is both correction-
and treatment-oriented. The juvenile system is designed to hold youth and
parents accountable, bringing a holistic approach to corrections.
The overwhelming majority of offenses committed by youth
are minor. For example, one study looked at a group of justice-involved 16- and
17-year-olds and found that 79 percent are accused of misdemeanors and only 3
percent are accused of serious felonies.
Allowing 17-year-old children to be included in the
juvenile system would give them greater access to crucial educational and
technical training. This leads to better opportunities upon release and an
increased chance to grow into responsible, productive adults. Michigan juvenile
facilities teach youth educational and vocational skills based on market
demand. Using education methods tailored to the goal of post-incarceration
employment benefits all juveniles, but would be most beneficial for older youth.
Please support and advance these pieces of legislation so
that 17-year-olds can have the opportunity to better their futures and the
future of Michigan.
Thank you for your consideration,
Jesse Kelley, Esq.
Government Affairs Specialist,
Criminal Justice Policy
The R Street Institute
 “Rep. Graham
Filler, R-DeWitt; audio on introduction of “raise the age” legislation for
17-year old offenders.”
 Nila Bala.
“Left-Behind Kids.” R Street Policy Study No. 136. March 2018.
 “Raise the
Age Advocacy Guide.” Action for Children North Carolina.