New laws to reform Michigan juvenile justice system

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy joins Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist for the juvenile justice bill signing.

By Michigan Advance

December 13, 2023


MICHIGAN—Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Tuesday signed bipartisan legislation in Detroit to address Michigan’s juvenile justice system and invest in diversion and re-entry services designed to better position Michigan youth for success as adults.

“Every young person deserves the chance to be successful,” said Gilchrist, a Motor City Democrat. “This historic legislation will hold our youth accountable while changing how they experience the justice system, expanding the available tools to create better outcomes, lower costs for families by eliminating fees, and ensure our juvenile justice system uses consistent research-based practices.”

In 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat, established the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform, which brought together advocates, former justice-involved youth, and law enforcement. Gilchrist chaired the task force.

The panel’s report found that in 2019, nearly half of all cases initiated in juvenile court in Michigan were for repeatedly missing school or property crimes. For example, in many of these cases, offenders were detained or incarcerated. More than 60% of youth placed in detention committed a status (truancy, curfew violations, running away, etc.) or a misdemeanor offense. A patchwork of different standards and available resources created inconsistencies across Michigan’s youth justice system.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Clement, who was appointed to the court in 2017 by GOP former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, was present during the bill signing in Detroit. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and several state lawmakers were also present.

“Young people and their families all across Michigan are counting on us to build a juvenile justice system that gives stakeholders the tools they need to provide a consistent, data-driven, evidence-based response that reflects best practices and gives youth the best chance to succeed while keeping our communities safe.”

Nina Salomon, deputy division director of the Corrections and Reentry Division at The Council of State Governments Justice Center was “delighted by the strides Michigan has taken with its most ambitious juvenile justice reform to date.”

“This achievement is a direct outcome of a thorough, data-driven review of Michigan’s juvenile justice system and highlights the dedication and leadership of a diverse coalition of stakeholders,” Salomon said. “We are excited about the impact of this ambitious reform on Michigan’s youth and on public safety.”

State Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport) after state House passage in October spoke in strong support of the legislative package.

“The changes we’re making now will help build a brighter future for our youth and our communities,” Lightner said. “Backed by rigorous data and research, this plan renews our efforts to improve the lives of young people and their families, all while ensuring the sensible use of taxpayer dollars on proven programs and practices. Our commitment to equipping those involved in the juvenile justice system with the best practices reflects our dedication to nurturing troubled kids and, in turn, fostering safer communities.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, applauded the signing.

“As prosecutors, rehabilitation must be our top priority for children in our criminal justice system,” Nessel said. “These new laws lean on smart investments, best practices and innovative tools to carry this goal forward. Building a support network that can offer Michigan youth the highest likelihood of finding a stable and successful life outside of the criminal justice system is a priority of mine, and I’m grateful that the Legislature and governor have now addressed this need.”

State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) lifted up the bipartisan nature of the legislation.

“The collective effort from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in getting these bills signed into law is truly commendable, and I’m immensely proud of their dedication,” Hope said.

READ MORE: Michigan House passes bipartisan bills aimed at improving juvenile justice system

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.



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