Raise the Age Second Hearing to Finish Testimony
On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, for the second week in a row, the Michigan House Law and Justice Committee heard testimony on Raise the Age (RTA) legislation. The September 25th meeting drew more people interested in offering testimony than the time-frame allowed, so the hearing was essentially “held over by popular demand”!
Representative Howrylak (R-Troy) testified first, explaining the funding legislation he introduced (House Bill 6396) to address the initial implementation costs associated with raising the age. As mentioned last week the remaining sticking point has been determining the best mechanism to finance the legislative change. Two viable funding options have been incorporated into this new legislation.
Last week’s hearing showcased that the bipartisan RTA package of bills has widespread support. Over thirty individuals and organizations (including civic and religious organizations, as well as conservative and liberal think tanks) either testified in person or in writing to urge prompt passage.
This week’s testimony offered a brief departure from the positive consensus, as a small group of stakeholders indicated their philosophical opposition to RTA, and proposed creating a separate system for serving 17-year-olds outside of either the current adult or juvenile justice systems.
Despite their opposition, overall support for Raise the Age legislation remains strong. Jason Smith, representing MCCD, and Mark Brown, representing Citizens for Prison Reform, testified last, offering clear and convincing testimony in support of the bills.
Jason highlighted that raising the age will improve public safety because it pairs accountability and responsibility with redemption and second chances. In addition:
1) We have a cost study which the Criminal Justice Policy Commission approved and shared with the legislature earlier this spring to serve as a starting point for determining the appropriate amount of funding needed.
2) We can afford to invest in our future now because the economy is robust and the state is in a financial position to make this investment.
3) Juvenile caseloads have continued to decline over time as there are far less young people in our country overall, and as a result of continuous improvements in juvenile court services.
4) We have statewide, bipartisan support as quantified in a statewide poll that found 85% of Michigan residents support raising the age.
Jason summed up why we need to act before this legislative session ends in December.
“We must accept the fact that our current practice of automatically prosecuting all 17 year-olds as adults is harmful, out of alignment with how the rest of the country treats justice-involved youth, and creates unnecessary barriers to youth becoming productive, tax-paying citizens as adults. The time is now to do the right thing and the smart thing. Let’s prioritize the future of Michigan’s youth and Raise the Age!”
At the committee hearing’s conclusion, chair Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Twp.) stated his intention to reconvene in approximately 30 days to vote on reporting the Raise the Age bills to the full House.