• Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency

Michigan House votes to treat 17-year-old offenders as youth, not adults

But for years, the criminal justice system in Michigan has treated them as such. Michigan is one of nine states where 17-year-olds are automatically tried as adults, sentenced as adults and incarcerated with adult populations if convicted. The package of bills would undo that, treating 17-year-olds as youth offenders.

That would benefit people like Toni Bunton, who at age 17 was involved in a drug deal that escalated into a killing. She served 16 years before former Gov. Jennifer Granholm commuted her sentence.

Being incarcerated with an adult population was harmful, she told the House Criminal Justice Committee as the bills were being considered in December.

"I was raped and I was beat up. The guards were to stand behind a room made of tinted glass windows but we never knew when a guard was in there or not," she said.

Portions of the bills would stop youths younger than 18 from being housed with adult prisoners, change which crimes made younger defendants eligible for adult prosecution and increased county funding for juveniles diverted from the adult criminal justice system.

One major change to the legislation as it passed the House was a later effective date of 2018.

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