LANSING — State Representative Leslie Love (D-Detroit) applauded the passage today of a bipartisan package of bills aimed at reforming Michigan’s current juvenile justice system, including the representative’s own bill, House Bill 4964. The 21-bill package was passed by the House, and will now head to the Senate for a vote.
“Reforms of this nature are long overdue,” said Rep. Love. “Our long-term goal is not to dismiss bad behavior, or worse, to punish someone unnecessarily because it is cheaper than the alternative, which is always rehabilitation. We want these kids to know that they still have an opportunity to become engaged, hardworking, law-abiding young adults with bright futures. Otherwise, the message we’re sending — that they’re beyond help — is a damaging one which perpetuates the cycle of criminal behavior.”
HB 4964 would require the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to distribute additional reimbursement funds to counties for the cost of “in-home” juvenile care services. Currently, juvenile court services are funded primarily by the DHHS Child Care Fund (CCF), at a 50 percent cost share between counties and state. In order to incentivize the use of community-based programs, HB 4964 would require the state to pay 100 percent of the costs for 17-year-olds, above what a study, to be done through the criminal justice policy commission, determines are the current costs for prosecuting 17-year-olds as adults. This would cover services including:
· Individual and family counseling
· Employment and educational opportunities
· Family preservation and reintegration services
“I’m glad to see that, slowly but surely, our focus is beginning to shift from the mentality of ‘how can we teach these kids a lesson’ to ‘how can we help them learn from their mistakes’,” Rep. Love said. “And now this package will help codify that shift into law. I hope to see it move through the Senate quickly and then head to the governor.”