LANSING, Mich., May 24, 2023 State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) and a bipartisan array of legislative champions introduced a package of bills yesterday to improve Michigan’s youth justice system to better promote public safety and protect communities. The Justice for Kids and Communities package reflects the unanimous recommendations of a bipartisan task force Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formed in June 2021 to study the youth justice system and develop data-driven recommendations for reform. 

“These bills will make a positive impact on the kids and families involved in Michigan’s youth justice system,” Hope said. “These bills call for objective, data-driven decisions. This more informed decision-making process will lead to more successful outcomes for kids and their families and ultimately better investments of taxpayer dollars.”   

The bills seek to reform multiple areas of the youth justice system, including: 

  • Support for evidence-based programs that reduce incarceration.
  • Adopting data-driven tools to guide diversion and court and detention decisions. 
  • Incentivizing the use of research-based practices.  
  • Creating a statewide youth public defense system and best practice standards. 

The bipartisan task force unanimously approved 31 recommendations in July 2022 to strengthen public safety, reduce disparities and improve outcomes for youth who encounter the justice system statewide. 

“The State has made several improvements to the criminal justice system in recent years, but Michigan still detains youth at one of the highest rates in the nation,” said state Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport). “It’s time to follow through on the solutions identified by the task force I was a part of on juvenile justice reform. These solutions will produce better results for Michigan children and make the juvenile justice system more effective.”

“Family court judges care deeply about the young people in their local communities,” said Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Clement. “This reform package will help keep those kids out of the justice system, and for youth who need judicial intervention, judges will have more tools and resources to meet their needs while keeping our communities safe.” 

“I was honored to chair the task force and work alongside committed public servants to chart a new path forward for Michigan’s youth justice system,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. “The bills introduced today mark a critical step forward, transforming the task force’s recommendations into reality and building on a collaborative, consensus-based effort to improve our youth justice system. Gov. Whitmer and I will continue working hard to improve public safety, deliver real change, and invest in youth, families, and communities.”

This bill package is a continuation of Michigan House Democrats’ dedication to reinvesting in Michigan’s public safety, ensuring safer communities across the state. Recently, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a historic budget recommendation, including substantial investments in local municipalities, public safety officers and first responders. 

More information on the recommendations adopted by the task force is available here