Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency

Youth Behind Bars Report

In the mid-1990's, Michigan became part of a national trend to get tough on youth crime. Although crime rates were steadily declining, the state passed a series of harsh laws that funneled thousands of youth into the adult criminal justice system. In addition to automatically considering all 17-year-olds as adults, Michigan broadened juvenile prosecutors'discretion to automatically file in criminal court, expanded the number of juvenile offenses requiring an adult sentence, and allowed children of any age to be criminally convicted and sent to prison. 


Youth Behind Bars: Exploring the Impact of Prosecuting and Incarcerating Kids in Michigan’s Criminal Justice System documents how Michigan’s outdated approach to youth justice does little to rehabilitate children, protect public safety, or wisely invest taxpayer dollars.


The report has found that “tough on crime” youth policies are ineffective, unfair, and cost taxpayers a lot of money. The report recommends raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, allowing 17-year olds to access rehabilitative juvenile services.