By Jesse Kelley
Michigan does not allow 17-year-olds to drop out of school, serve on a jury, vote in elections, live independently from their parent or guardian, purchase fireworks or rent a hotel room. However, the state does require all 17-year-olds to be charged as adults if arrested for any offense.
Michigan is one of only five states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, which harms not only those young people being jailed but also local communities and the state economy.
To address this problem, Michigan is considering a Youth in Prison legislative package that would include raising the age of criminal majority. This is critical juvenile justice reform legislation that should be passed without delay.
Allowing 17-year-olds to be included in the juvenile system would provide them with greater access to crucial educational and technical training. This leads to greater opportunities upon release and a better chance for them to grow into responsible, productive adults.
The juvenile court system focuses on rehabilitating its participants. Michigan juvenile facilities teach youth educational and vocational skills based on market demand. Using tailored education methods with the goal of post-incarceration employment in mind is something that benefits all juveniles, but would be most beneficial for older youth — including 17-year-olds.