Paul Elam, Ph.D. President of Public Policy Associates recently enjoyed a featured guest spot on the Michigan Business Network. Joined by Mary King, Executive Director of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, Dr. Elam made a compelling case for Michigan’s Raise the Age (RTA) campaign, specifically detailing why the business community should join this diverse coalition in supporting youth justice.
The RTA campaign aims to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age. Michigan is one of only five states that automatically prosecute 17-year-olds as adults. This policy is at odds with other Michigan laws and conflicts with widely-accepted national and international policies that declare adulthood to begin at age 18.
Youth incarceration is harmful, expensive and ineffective. Despite being mostly non-violent offenders, over half of youth convicted as adults spend time in jail or prison, where they are more likely to be physically attacked, sexually assaulted, and attempt suicide.
“Keeping Michigan 17-year-olds in the adult justice system puts our citizens at a competitive disadvantage,” said Ms. King. “System-involved youth coming to Michigan from the 45 states that have raised the age have more access to education and employment, because they don’t have a felony conviction.”
Adult convictions create lifelong barriers to housing, employment and education. Because of the harsh state law, a 17-year-old convicted in Michigan will average 40 percent less in lifetime earnings than a youth convicted of the same charge in other states. Predictably, this increases the likelihood of reliance on government assistance.
Raising the age would eliminate these disparities while strengthening the workforce talent pipeline. Raising the age will provide a pathway for young people to become productive, gainfully employed, tax-paying citizens in Michigan.
The two-part interview is available to download and stream.
Paul Elam, Ph.D., is the president of Public Policy Associates, Inc. and has worked on national, state and local efforts to create fair and effective juvenile justice policies and practices. He is a board member of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency and a consultant to the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice. To find out more about PPA’s work in juvenile justice, contact Dr. Elam at firstname.lastname@example.org. or 517-485-4477.