I love teenagers! And we’re doing them a real disservice here in our state.
If you’re a Michigander and the parent of a 17-year-old, you probably know most of this already. But here’s a reminder…important information for all of us.
Your 17-year-old cannot vote.
Your 17-year-old cannot serve in the military.
Your 17-year-old cannot buy a pack of cigarettes.
Your 17-year-old cannot purchase a six-pack of beer.
BUT, your 17-year-old can be arrested as an adult, tried as an adult, and placed in an adult prison!
An article in the Grand Rapids Business Journal points out that between 2003 and 2013, nearly 20,300 youth were convicted as adults in Michigan. 95% were 17 at the time of the offense. Some were even younger. This has to stop!
HFP has been remiss in not focusing more attention on this earlier and more often. It recently came to our attention again when we noticed that the State of Missouri has adopted legislation raising the age. That means that Michigan will soon be one of only four states that automatically charge 17-year-olds as adults.
There are so many arguments against this practice, from so many different directions.
We give them a criminal record at a very young age, affecting their future.
It increases in-prison problems of violence and sexual assault.
It leads to higher rates of mental problems and suicide.
There are SIGNIFICANT racial disparities in rates of youth incarceration.
Youths prosecuted as adults are 34% more likely to reoffend than those in the juvenile system.
From a cost standpoint alone, it’s dumb!
I’m pleased to report that there’s an excellent Raise the Age campaign in Michigan. It’s time to get involved, and not just those of you who have teens at home. This campaign deserves widespread support of individuals, as well as organizations. The movement actually has a package before the Michigan legislature, and it’s a good one. These bills would not only raise the age but also establish other important reforms. For more information, please go to raisetheage.org. Then, be sure to let your lawmakers know that we want action.
The time is now.
As writer Jenny Kinne says in the GRBJ article:
This is not only an unethical system, it is an unintelligent investment. We can be a whole lot more effective in how we spend our tax dollars.
Our precious teens deserve better.