Bills improve children’s lives, maintain public safety

LANSING, Mich., Dec. 13, 2023 — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II signed a bipartisan bill package yesterday to make Michigan’s juvenile justice system more fair and effective. He signed House Bills 4625264628294633463637463940 and 4643, along with Senate Bills 4184214252642829432, and 43536. The bills were created to implement the 2022 recommendations of the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform.

The package focused on six major topics: enhancing the Child Care Fund; providing juveniles with legal counsel; expanding the Juvenile Diversion Act; requiring tailored treatment for juveniles; eliminating most fines and fees; and renaming and expanding the Office of Children’s Ombudsman. Together these areas aim to improve outcomes for kids who have been in the justice system, spur systemic change and foster more equity for the future of Michigan’s youth.

“This bipartisan package has been crafted to promote sensitivity and efficiency within the system,” said state Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections and sponsor of HB 4629. “Until now, Michigan did not have uniform statewide policy or processes to divert youth who do not pose public safety or flight risks from detention facilities. My bill, now law, offers an opportunity to ensure such minors are not placed in such facilities.”

“The bipartisan support for this legislation reflects what we all believe: kids deserve opportunities to succeed no matter where they live in Michigan. I am heartened by the shared commitment to young people and their families. This bipartisan work means that Michigan is leading the way with improvements that will result in less recidivism and more success,” said state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt), chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee and the lead sponsor of the package.

“I am proud to sponsor HB 4625, which requires the use of comprehensive risk and mental health screening tools before a diversion decision is made for youth in the juvenile justice system. My bill will require these tools to be used in the decision-making process as an important way to properly assess what type of resources may be needed for youth before they return home and to the community. We want to disrupt the chances of recidivism due to undiagnosed or untreated mental health or other risk issues and provide the help needed,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), founding member of the Juvenile Justice Task Force.

“As a social worker, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of making sure vulnerable kids can get the support they need, especially when navigating state systems and services. It’s up to adults to ensure children receive the protections they deserve,” said state Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe), sponsor of HB 4639. “I’m glad we were able to continue the Juvenile Justice Task Force’s bipartisan work and update Michigan law to improve youth outcomes and community safety in the juvenile justice, foster care and adoption services systems.”

“As part of a comprehensive reform package, House Bill 4637 aligns with the recommendations of the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform. By eliminating fees and costs associated with juvenile justice system involvement, this bill ensures a fairer and more equitable system. It prioritizes the well-being of our youth, striving to reduce disparities and enhance accountability. It’s a pivotal step toward a more just and effective juvenile justice system, emphasizing rehabilitation and support,” said state Rep. Carol Glanville (D-Walker).