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Michigan juvenile justice reform task force releases report with recommendations on improving system

Posted at 8:53 PM, Jul 22, 2022

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform has been working for a year on finding ways to make the system fairer and more efficient for youth that find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

On Friday, that task force shared its findings.

The group was formed back in the summer of 2021, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order establishing the body.

Over the course of a year, the group met nine times, poured over data and hosted several study groups with hundreds of participants to identify key areas of concern.

Josh Weber with the Council of State Governments says Michigan is doing many things right, but there are so many ways to improve the system.

"There's a lot of good things happening in Michigan, but we were surprised from one county to the next how different the system looks. So that's one of the real benefits of this process and the recommendations. It doesn't take away from local discretion, but it creates a statewide floor of best practices for all local courts to avoid what we call justice by geography," said Weber.

Some of the recommendations include creating a statewide juvenile public defense system, expanding diversion opportunities for youth who are not a public safety risk, increasing funding for effective community-based programs and adopting data-driven tools to guide diversion, court and detention decisions.

Weber says the report is the end of one process but the beginning of another process.

"The goal really is now to translate those recommendations into legislative changes, appropriation changes, court rule changes, administrative changes," said Weber.

Ultimately, Weber says, when it's all said and done, there will be uniformity and fairness across the board for all children in the juvenile justice system.

If you'd like to read the report, we have it here:

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