New act offers a second chance to criminal offenders

“Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed bills that becomes effective in August and will raise the age limit and make other changes to the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), a program aimed at offering a second chance to young criminal offenders,” says Stephanie Fakih, founder and principal of Rights First Law.

Fakih explains why HYTA was enacted in the 1960s. “HYTA was put in place to give young offenders between the ages of 17 and 20 an opportunity to plead guilty to their crime and successfully complete a term of supervision or incarceration. In exchange, their offense does not appear on their criminal record. Under HYTA, courts can hold offenders accountable while giving them a second chance to move forward with their lives.

“These new bills will expand HYTA eligibility from an offender’s 21st birthday until their 24th birthday, allowing 21-23-year olds to plead guilty to a HYTA offense with the consent of the prosecuting attorney,” says Fakih. “They also require that a HYTA trainee be in school, working, or actively looking for work to maintain this special status.

“The new legislation will allow the courts to continue to use prison as an option in certain HYTA cases, but will reduce the maximum sentence by one year, while excluding certain non-violent youthful offenders from being housed in prison under HYTA,” Fakih noted. “The legislative package also includes a new provision that will require that HYTA status automatically be revoked if the offender commits a subsequent serious offense.

“We think this is a very positive change in the system, as there is extensive research that shows our brains aren’t fully developed until our mid-20s. Doctors have shown that the part of the brain that helps you to inhibit impulses and to plan and organize your behavior to reach a goal isn’t fully developed; the expansion of HYTA will give young offenders over 21 a second chance at having a clear criminal record.”