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Michigan’s youth justice reforms: Expanded diversion, no fees

(95.3 MNC)
The State of Michigan recently implemented a significant juvenile justice reform package following recommendations from a task force made up of prosecutors, sheriffs, judges and child advocates.
The reforms expand diversion eligibility, allocate state funds for programs, limit diversion periods to three months, and eliminate fines and fees.
Jason Smith, executive director of the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, emphasized the shift toward rehabilitation, community-based alternatives, standardized policies, risk assessments and the removal of fines and fees in the system. He said the new system is much more comprehensive.
“If you don’t serve a 10-year-old in the juvenile-justice system, which we believe you shouldn’t, what do you do with them?” Smith asked. “If they need services, what happens? What we will see over the next couple of years with the expansion of diversion and community-based options will answer those questions.”
The major reform involved changing the child care fund reimbursement model to incentivize local jurisdictions to invest more in community-based services.
Richard A. Mendel, senior research fellow for youth justice at The Sentencing Project and author of a report on the topic, said not only does the Michigan package eliminate most fees and minimize costs which would have previously gone to youths or their parents and the counties serving them, but overall diversion programs save money.
“Diversion tends to be cheaper,” Mendel pointed out. “It’s not a new cost, it’s a net savings, even in the short term. And it’s especially in this savings financially in the long term because these young people are much less likely to come back.”
Smith added the state can serve 10 kids with high-quality services in the community for the price of one leaving residential placement.

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1 comment

Charles U Farley April 1, 2024 at 10:45 am

“Diversion tends to be cheaper,”

Not punishing crime at all would be really cheap too, but it’s clearly a bad idea. This juvenile reform package is exactly that idea, but on a smaller scale.

It’s expensive to throw someone in jail, but long term it’s even costlier not to do it.

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