Should Michigan Reconsider Sending Juveniles to Prison?

Should Michigan Reconsider Sending Juveniles to Prison?

Do you think juvenile offenders should be housed with adult offenders?

Toni Bunton stood in front of legislators this week and told her story. When she was 17-years-old, she was the getaway driver in a marijuana delivery scheme. The scheme ended with a robbery and a second degree murder charge.

Those charges landed the 17-year-old in prison for 25-50 years. In prison, Bunton reported being repeatedly raped and abused. After serving 16 years, former Michigan Governor Granholm commuted her sentence. The Detroit Free Press quoted Bunton saying,

“What I did, my crime, I hurt families, I hurt victims. I deserved to be punished, but I did not deserve to be put in adult facilities. I was abused for years.”

A Package of Bills

Legislators from across the State of Michigan met this week to discuss a package of bills that would change the way we treat some juvenile offenders.

The Detroit Free Press reported that these bills would first raise the age of juvenile status from 17 to 18 years old. It would also become more difficult to “automatically waive juveniles into adult court, except in the most serious violent crimes like murder and rape.”

In addition, the bills would require family court hearings. Juvenile offenders would be prohibited from being housed with adult offenders, and the child care fund costs for local counties would be raised from 50% to 75% of state reimbursement.

The Critics

While many support the bills, some do not. Critics like jail administrator Lt. Tom Cremonte told the Free Press that these bills would not make communities safer. Livingston County Commission David Domas told the press that the counties cannot take on the extra cost that these bills will bring.

The Supporters

Supports like State Republican Harvey Santana said,

“We live in a country that unfortunately sees young people in a prison setting, and nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing 14 or 15-year-olds in prison with adults.”

“Most of those individuals are there because there are adults who failed them in life.”

Michigan Radio reported Dave Maluchnick with the Michigan Catholic Conference and said, “Move from just punishment to trying to rehabilitate an individual.”

Many supports believe that these bills will help the Department of Corrections lower costs.

Michigan’s Prison Reform

It’s not new news that the State of Michigan is looking to reform the prison system. In an article I published back May 2015, we learned that the budget for the Michigan Department of Corrections is 2 billion dollars. That is almost a quarter of Michigan’s general fund budget.

You can read more about the Smart Justice that Governor Snyder has called for by going to Governor Snyder Calls for Smart Justice by Sending Fewer to Prison.

Presumptive Parole is another way legislators are trying to address prison reform. In an article published in October, we discussed what critics and supports are saying about presumptive parole.

Over to You

As the State of Michigan looks to reform our prison system, what do you think should happen? Should legislators address how the youth in our state are sentenced? Should something like presumptive parole be passed? Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.