Providing Appropriate Treatments to Youth in the Criminal Justice System by Raising the Age

Rubén Martinez, Richard C. Davila, Jean Kayitsinga, Francisco Villarruel

Aug. 2018

This report provides an overview of potential benefits that will accrue to Michigan youth, families, and communities should the State legislature pass legislation to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18. While implementation of Raise the Age legislation may initially result in increased costs to counties and the state, the examples of other states that have previously raised the age demonstrate that these will likely be short-term or one-time costs. Several factors and current trends in Michigan will contribute to savings over the long term should the ceiling for juvenile jurisdiction be raised from 17 to 18. These include a decline in the adolescent population in the state and in crime and arrest rates among juveniles, implementation of a new statewide school-discipline policy, and the positive effects of juvenile justice treatment programs over those of adult prisons. Justice-involved youth in treatment programs in juvenile justice systems have lower recidivism rates than those in adult prisons. They benefit from rehabilitative and age-appropriate treatment programs, including opportunities to continue their education, which are not available in the punitive cultures of adult prisons. They are also spared a record of a conviction that tends to have long-term negative effects on their employment opportunities, as evident by their lower lifetime earnings. Overall, the report finds that serving 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system increases public safety, saves taxpayer money, and provides young people in trouble with the law the opportunity of rehabilitation through age-appropriate treatment and services.

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