Legislators Introduce Juvenile Justice Reform Package

Bipartisan, bicameral support for restructuring of the system
Friday, October 23, 2015

LANSING — State Representative Leslie Love (D-Detroit) along with other Democratic and Republican legislators in the Michigan House and Senate, has helped introduce a package of laws aimed at addressing inadequacies in Michigan’s juvenile justice system. The package includes bills which would emphasize rehabilitation for young offenders and potentially increase familial contact and support during incarceration, with a main focus on raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. Michigan is one of the only remaining states which automatically prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults for certain offenses, despite numerous studies confirming the connection between youth incarceration and violent crime later in life.     

“There are a variety of factors that influence the decisions a young person makes in that critical juncture between 12 and 18,” said Rep. Love. “We don’t trust a 17-year-old to sign a binding legal contract or to use the restroom in school without permission, but as soon as they commit a crime, we assume they have the cognitive reasoning abilities of an adult? That’s nonsensical. We need to be focused on the rehabilitation efforts which help kids take responsibility for, and change the course of, their lives.”

According to the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, research has found that youth exiting the adult system are 34 percent more likely to reoffend, reoffend sooner and escalate to more violent offenses than their counterparts in the juvenile justice system.   

Rep. Love’s bill, House Bill 4964, would help ease financial strain on communities looking to use community-based methods of juvenile rehabilitation by increasing the rate of reimbursement for the County Child Care Fund. Currently, juvenile court services are funded primarily by the Department of Health and Human Services Child Care Fund (CCF), at a 50 percent cost share between counties and state. In order to incentivize the use of community-based programs as opposed to out-of-home placement, the CCF Task Force has recommended increasing the reimbursement rate by 25 percent, meaning a total of 75 would be covered by the state, if the bill passes.

“This state currently spends more on its corrections system than it does on higher education,” said Rep. Love. “So clearly reforming young offenders isn’t the priority — yet. But this package of bills is going to be a small but measurable step in the right direction.”