A ProPublica examination of Michigan’s juvenile justice system has found that minors are locked up for offenses ranging from refusing to take medication to repeatedly disobeying their parents.
Thanks to a decentralized structure which allows counties to “act with little oversight,” the state now ranks fourth in the nation after California, Texas and Florida in the number of minors held for technical violations, ProPublica said.
Michigan’s rate of juvenile incarceration is more than twice the national rate.
“Michigan is completely out of line with the rest of the country,” said Joshua Rovner, a senior advocacy associate at The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit focused on criminal justice reform around the country.
Data collected during a single day in 2017 shows that about 30 percent of the youth confined to detention and residential facilities in Michigan were there for noncriminal offenses, compared with 17 percent for the country overall.
In 2018, state data reported that 25 percent of the state’s youth on probation were black, even though they only make up 17 percent of the population under 17. In some cases, children have been jailed for something as simple as not logging into online classes.
“No matter what you do, it can be the smallest thing, walking down the street or going to the store at night and the police see you and find out you are on probation, you are going to get locked up,” said Cartez, a 17-year-old who entered the juvenile court system in 2018.
Additional Reading: See the webinar series, “Reforming Youth Justice: The Next Frontier,” organized by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice.