LANSING, Mich. — Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer along with Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, formed the bipartisan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform, the first of its kind in the State of Michigan. This Task Force will focus on analyzing our juvenile justice system, while recommending proven practices and strategies for reform grounded in data, research, and fundamental constitutional principles.
“Michigan is a national leader in criminal justice reform, and today we continue towards implementing real changes that will help young Michiganders when they are exposed to our criminal justice system,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We believe that we must reduce people’s contact with the system in the first place, but when they do come into contact, we must especially treat our youngest Michiganders with dignity, humanity, and respect. One mistake early on in a child’s life should not destroy their opportunities for a positive future.”
This task force will exist as a partnership between the county and state leaders, as well as other leaders involved in the juvenile justice system. Additionally, the Task Force's goal will be to develop an ambitious, innovative, and thorough analysis of Michigan's juvenile justice system, complete with recommendations for changes in state law, policy, and appropriations to improve youth outcomes.
"When I first took office, I made it clear that I would focus on building and delivering fundamental reforms to make our communities safer and improve people's outcomes who come into contact with our criminal justice system," said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. "This Task Force will examine a system that is not working. Michigan still detains youth at one of the highest rates in the nation and is nearly unparalleled in our practice of detaining youth for non-criminal behavior. Today we begin a new process to change this system in a way that will position these young Michiganders for success."
"This task force will become an integral part of bettering our state's juvenile justice system and I'm proud to support a proactive approach to necessary reforms," said Attorney General Dana Nessel. "Just last month, I led a coalition of attorneys general in asking the federal government to address how disparities in school discipline negatively impact students from marginalized communities who are more likely to enter the criminal justice system as a result. It is imperative to have an all-hands-on-deck approach to systemic issues - nationally and locally - and I firmly believe this task force is another avenue that provides an opportunity to enact positive change for Michigan's youth."
“Our Ingham County Family Center is a shining example of the deliverable we as a state can produce with the direction and vision through this executive order by Governor Whitmer,” said Judge Lisa McCormick.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center will perform the review, which will examine the system from diversion through reentry. The national, nonpartisan organization, known for developing research-driven public safety strategies, will share its findings with the [commission] and identify approaches to enhance the state’s juvenile justice system.
Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist have been committed to enacting criminal justice reforms since the day they took office. In October of 2021, Governor Whitmer signed bipartisan House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 reforming Michigan’s criminal expungement laws making it easier for people who have committed certain felonies and misdemeanors to have their record expunged.
“Step by step, Michigan has been addressing problems that have plagued our justice system for years. Each step along the way has been bipartisan, built on partnerships, and driven by data,” said Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement. “This task force will be successful because the Governor has adopted that same model and because everyone here is committed to reimagining a juvenile justice system that is more collaborative, evidence-based, focused on best practices, and ready to help every youth achieve success.”
"This is a once in a generation opportunity to bring local and state leaders together to improve Michigan's juvenile justice system. I applaud Governor Whitmer for her leadership on this issue, and I'm thankful for the judicial, legislative, and local partners that have committed themselves to this important work," said Jason Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Center for Youth Justice. "The most successful juvenile justice systems are those that take every opportunity to keep kids out of the system and in their communities, which requires strong collaboration and service supports at a local level. I'm so appreciative that this bipartisan task force will take a comprehensive look at Michigan's juvenile justice system, including its use of residential placement, alternatives to detention and residential placement, expanding reentry and aftercare, and opportunities to reduce racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities."
“While some have never had to experience the stress caused by an early life in the juvenile justice system, far too many Michigan children have been affected by a system that does more to penalize them instead of providing them with the support and rehabilitation they really need,” Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) said. “It is our responsibility to make improvements to right these wrongs, and so I am proud to support a bipartisan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform. I look forward to working with my colleagues on building a better system that provides true, lasting justice and opportunity for our youth.”
“This task force is going to identify the next steps to build a smarter and better juvenile justice system and gather the data we need to get a clear picture of where we need to make responsible reforms and I am excited to be a part of this movement,” said Representative Sarah Lightner.
In April of 2019, Governor Whitmer created the bipartisan Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration [lnks.gd], chaired by Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, which reviewed the state’s jail and court data to expand alternatives to jail, safely reduce jail admissions and length of stay, and improve the effectiveness of the front end of Michigan’s justice system. These recommendations inspired legislation that was signed by the Governor in January of 2021.
To view Executive Order 2021-6 click the link below:
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