Here is some information that I hope you will find helpful, including updates and news from your state government.
‘Justice for Kids and Communities’ Package Provides Research-Backed Reforms for Youth Justice System
I’m pleased to be part of a bipartisan 20-bill package called Justice for Kids and Communities (House Bills 4624–43). It’s based on the recommendations from a 2021 bipartisan youth justice task force formed by Gov. Whitmer. The task force, led by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, assessed Michigan’s youth justice system using case-level data analysis, focus groups and interviews with more than 100 stakeholders across the state. The recommended changes will substantially improve Michigan’s justice system.
This legislation bolsters community safety, reduces disparities, and improves outcomes for kids and their families. More specifically, the bills will
- Establish best practices and minimum funding for youth justice.
- Provide for appointed counsel for kids.
- Require a closer look at each child’s suitability for diversion programs by creating specific factors for courts to consider.
- Strengthen and expand the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman for handling, investigating and reporting incidents in youth detention facilities.
These changes are definite improvements and are much needed to ensure that Michigan’s kids and their families have a constructive experience with the justice system.
Bills to Expand Treatment Courts Introduced
Last week, we heard testimony on bills that would expand the use and accessibility of treatment courts, otherwise known as “problem-solving courts.” My bill (HB 4523) would allow an individual with a prior or current violent offense into mental health court programs if the mental health court judge, the prosecuting attorney, and any known victims consent. HB 4525 applies this same rule to drug treatment court. And HB 4522 creates a Family Treatment Court for civil child abuse and neglect cases. HB 4524 allows treatment court participants to remain in the program if they commit a felony after starting the program unless after consultation with the treatment court team and the prosecuting attorney, the judge allows the participant to continue in treatment court.
Problem-solving courts have a great success rate — they reduce the likelihood of recidivism and help participants resolve what could be the root cause of their criminal behavior. There are currently 208 of these courts statewide, with 137 Drug/DWI/Sobriety Courts, 42 Mental Health Courts, and 28 Veterans Treatment Courts. Ingham County is home to several successful treatment courts, including the sobriety court at 55th District Court in Mason. I have attended many graduations from this program; it is heartening to see participants and their loved ones leave better equipped and committed to handling future problems better. More information about treatment courts can be found here.
Package to Ban Child Marriage Unanimously Passed Out of House Committee
Last week, bills to ban child marriage in Michigan (HBs 4293–4302) unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee. Currently, Michigan law allows 16- and 17-year-old children to marry with permission from a parent or guardian, and children younger than 16 can marry with both parental and judicial approval. The bills would set 18 as a minimum age for marriage with no exceptions. State sen. Sarah Anthony and I are committed to ending this human rights abuse. This is the third term that I have introduced these bills, and the fourth term that Sen. Anthony has introduced these bills. We are hopeful that this is the year to get this done.
Operation Safe Neighborhoods Removes Nearly 400 Illegal Guns in First Year
Last week, Gov. Whitmer announced that 389 illegal guns have been confiscated under Operation Safe Neighborhoods. This operation aims to reduce gun violence by taking illegal firearms from people who cannot legally possess a gun due to their prior criminal history. Since Operation Safe Neighborhoods began, police have conducted almost 3,400 check-ins with felony offenders.