October 2020: Youth Justice Action Month

WHEREAS, the Michigan juvenile court system lacks uniform data on youth incarceration, probation, arrests, and releases, which potentially violates the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and risks federal funding; and,

 

WHEREAS, youth behaviors that would not be criminal if they were adults result in more court referrals from schools and mental health and child welfare services, disproportionately impact girls of color, and increase involvement in the juvenile justice system; and,

 

WHEREAS, due to the lack of state funding for juvenile defense, attorneys take on extreme caseloads, which can lead youth to waive their right to counsel and to make poor decisions during the case; and,

 

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that shackling during sentencing – a painful, embarrassing, and potentially traumatic event –violates the due process of adult defendants, but this ruling was not extended to juvenile defendants; and,

 

WHEREAS, the imposition of fines and fees can extend the duration of a young person’s court involvement, impact their ability to find employment, and cause tremendous hardship for low-income families; and,  

 

WHEREAS, Michigan ranks 37th in the nation for record confidentiality and expungement, impacting a young person’s opportunity for future employment and education; and,

 

WHEREAS, youth detention and confinement are inequitable, harmful, and expensive, because:

 

  • Youth of color as well as youth with disabilities and mental health issues are disproportionately represented at all stages of the criminal justice system;
  • Confirming youth in facilities puts them at a higher risk of self-harm and suicide, or physical or sexual victimization;
  • Youth detention and confinement costs $200 to $500 per day, per youth; and,

 

WHEREAS, it is important for the state of Michigan to advance the following best practices:

 

  • Establish a statewide data management system with uniform definitions to ensure the safety, equity, and well-being of children under court and state supervision;
  • Offer diversion programs in every county, which are more likely to reduce recidivism than detention or confinement, as an alternative to formal adjudication;
  • Implement limitations and regulations on the number of cases an attorney may take on at one time, as well as requirements for ongoing legal education;
  • Eliminate indiscriminate shackling for youth appearing in court;
  • Eliminate the assessment and collection of juvenile court fines and fees;
  • Increase protections for juvenile records, keeping hearing and case information private from the public;
  • Expand the use of community-based services which more effectively improve behavior, strengthen family connections, and reduce reoffending than detention or confinement; and,

 

WHEREAS, it is our shared responsibility to ensure all youth in our state can reach their full potential with a quality education and a pathway to a good job;

 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, do hereby proclaim October 2020 as Youth Justice Action Month in Michigan.