LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved a Sen. Roger Victory measure as part of a multi-bill package to bring Michigan’s juvenile justice policy in line with national research and best practices.
“This is a comprehensive and long-overdue effort to help protect Michigan communities and improve outcomes for young people in the justice system across our state,” said Victory, R-Hudsonville. “Michigan’s juvenile justice system should be focused on better public safety, rehabilitation and second chances — while preparing young people to successfully transition into productive adults.
“The bipartisan Justice for Kids and Communities package uses effective and proven ways to accomplish all these goals.”
The legislative package stems from the work of the bipartisan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform, which oversaw a comprehensive, data-driven assessment of Michigan’s juvenile justice system. The task force found large inconsistencies across the state in the use of research-based policies and practices that work to reduce recidivism.
Victory’s bill, Senate Bill 432, would rename the Office of Children’s Ombudsman as the Office of the Child Advocate and increase its role to include juveniles who are in residential facilities or victims in child abuse or maltreatment cases.
Other bills in the package would require a risk and needs assessment be completed for each minor before disposition, push juveniles toward diversion programs when possible, require juveniles to be housed in the least restrictive environment, boost access to indigent defense for juveniles, and add items to be considered when prosecutors decide whether to try a juvenile as an adult.
“These reforms would establish a foundation of juvenile justice best practices for all localities across the state to follow — while still maintaining local flexibility and discretion,” Victory said. “By requiring courts to use validated screening and assessment tools to make data-driven decisions, we can help reduce recidivism, improve outcomes and achieve long-term savings.”
SBs 418, 421, 425, 426, 428, 429, 432, 435 and 436 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.