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Raise the Age

Raise the Age (RTA) legislation raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age, keeping youth out of adult court. Michigan passed this legislation on October 31st, 2019 and it went into affect October 1st, 2021. 


Teen behind bars with the text 'Examining the impact of prosecuting and incarcerating kids in Michigan's criminal justice system. Youth Behind Bars' in the middle of one of the bars. At the bottom of the image reads 'by Michelle Weemhoff and Kristen Staley'

In the past decade, over 20,000 youth have had some kind interaction with the adult justice system and ended up on adult probation, in jail, or in prison. There are numerous ways for a young person in conflict with the law to be charged as an adult--but in Michigan, the most common way was to simply turn 17. 

About two-thirds of these 17-year-olds were convicted of non-violent offenses that did not include weapons.  Far more youth of color are disproportionately affected by this law. 

Moreover, there is no evidence that prosecuting 17-year-olds in the adult system shows any rehabilitative advantage. Many have suffered severe mental and physical damage from the violence and sexual abuse they have endured while in the adult prison system.

Incarcerating kids in the adult prison system is expensive. It costs upwards of $34,000 a year to incarcerate someone, and the costs continue onward after that. After exiting the prison system, youth have an adult criminal record that haunts them the rest of their life. This limits them from finding housing, getting a job, and leading a productive life after prison. It inevitably stunts Michigan's economic and social development. Raise the Age helps remedy this.


In the mid-1990s, 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 under 18 into the adult criminal justice system. Raise the Age is a step away from the outdated "tough on crime" models and a step toward "smart on crime". 

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Prosecuting youth as adults is harmful to children, threatens public safety, and is EXPENSIVE. 

  • Youth incarcerated in adult facilities are more likely to be physically attacked, sexually assaulted and attempt suicide than young people in the juvenile justice system

  • Youth incarceration in adult facilities increases violent crime. National research found that youth exiting the adult system are 34 percent more likely to re-offend, re-offend sooner, and escalate to more violent offenses than their counterparts in the juvenile justice system.

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Raising the age allows 17-year-olds to access rehabilitative age-appropriate services

  • Juvenile courts offer highly effective diversion and community-based programs not accessible in adult court. Because the majority of 17-year-olds have non-violent charges, they would likely respond well to community-based options that are designed to keep kids in school, address underlying treatment needs, and engage the whole family.

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Juvenile courts and facilities already serve 17-year-olds

  • According to past state law, a youth who attains her/his 17th birthday after the filing of a court petition remains under juvenile court supervision. In some cases, young people who enter the juvenile justice system before turning 17 can even remain under juvenile court jurisdiction until age 21. As a result, most of Michigan’s juvenile court professionals and facility staff already have extensive experience working with older youth.

Legislative Overview 

PA 98-113 - Increases the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old.

Michigan was one of only four remaining states in the United States where 17-year-olds were automatically considered adults for criminal offenses. To align with standard national practices, Michigan raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18.

Raise the Age Publications 

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

by The Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University

Youth Behind Bars: Exploring the Impact of Prosecuting and Incarcerating Kids in Michigan’s Criminal Justice System

by the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency

Raise the Age: Protecting Kids and Enhancing Public Safety in Michigan

By Human Impact Partners

The Cost of Raising the Age of Juvenile Justice in Michigan

by Hornby Zeller Associates, Inc. March 2018

Raising the Age: Shifting to a Safe and More Effective Juvenile Justice System

By the Justice Policy Institute

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