FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DETROIT – The ACLU of Michigan (ACLU) applauds the Michigan Legislature for passing a 19-bill package that will bring sweeping reform to the state’s juvenile justice system, but is disappointed that a critical piece did not pass that would have greatly improved the ability of juveniles to obtain qualified legal counsel.
Among other things, the legislation will:
- Eliminate most fines and fees for juveniles so that families will no longer have to face the significant burden of debt that the current system creates for children caught up in the juvenile justice system.
- Require the use of a risk screening tool and mental health screening tool to inform diversion decision making.
- Significantly increases the reimbursement rate for community-based services while requiring the use of evidence-based practices, such as risk screening and assessment, detention screening, and hiring local quality assurance specialists. Counties will be able to utilize the funding for pre-arrest diversion, which will effectively divert low-risk youth from the juvenile system.
- Establish the Office of the Child Advocate to include oversight of residential facilities providing juvenile justice services.
Unfortunately, the Legislature failed to pass the expansion of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act that would ensure that juveniles not only have constitutionally required legal representation when facing charges in a criminal case but also have zealous and effective assistance of counsel.
Loren Khogali, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director, said this about the passage of juvenile justice legislation:
“We applaud the Legislature for passing this incredibly important, and much-needed package of bills, which are a crucial step forward in transforming Michigan’s juvenile justice system for the better. Families will no longer face overly burdensome fines and fees if their child becomes entangled in the juvenile justice system, increased access to diversion programs mean that less children will be incarcerated and there will be much-needed oversight of residential facilities providing juvenile justice services, and other important reforms.
“However, House Bill 4630, a critical piece of legislation, which would allow the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) to set minimum standards for the defense of juveniles facing criminal charges, was not included in the package of bills that was passed. The ACLU of Michigan has long fought in the courts and in the legislature to ensure the constitutional guarantee that all people facing charges in a criminal case have counsel to provide zealous representation. Through the MIDC, the state has accomplished significant reforms of the adult indigent defense system. Children who become entangled in the criminal legal system should have, at a minimum, the same constitutional protections as adults. We are disappointed, but not deterred. When the Legislature returns next year, getting that piece of the legislation passed will be one of our priorities.”