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Whitmer, Gilchrist announce task force on juvenile justice reform

Jail/Prison file photo
Posted at 1:57 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 13:57:43-04

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist formed the bipartisan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform, the first of its kind in the state of Michigan.

State leaders announced the new task force during a news conference Wednesday.

It’ll focus on analyzing the state’s juvenile justice system, while recommending proven practices and strategies for reform grounded in data, research and constitutional principles.

“Michigan is a national leader in criminal justice reform, and today we continue towards implementing real changes that will help young Michiganders when they are exposed to our criminal justice system,” Whitmer said. “We believe that we must reduce people’s contact with the system in the first place, but when they do come into contact, we must especially treat our youngest Michiganders with dignity, humanity and respect. One mistake early on in a child’s life should not destroy their opportunities for a positive future.”

The task force will serve as a partnership between county and state leaders, as well as other leaders involved in the juvenile justice system.

“When I first took office, I made it clear that I would focus on building and delivering fundamental reforms to make our communities safer and improve people’s outcomes who come into contact with our criminal justice system,” Gilchrist said. “This task force will examine a system that is not working. Michigan still detains youth at one of the highest rates in the nation and is nearly unparalleled in our practice of detaining youth for non-criminal behavior. Today we begin a new process to change this system in a way that will position these young Michiganders for success.”

Back in October, Whitmer signed bipartisan House bills aimed at reforming criminal expungement laws, making it easier for people who have committed certain felonies and misdemeanors to have their record expunged.

READ MORE: Gov. Whitmer signs 'historic' criminal justice reform bills

READ MORE: Michigan AG launches webpage devoted to informing public of new expungement laws

READ MORE: Michigan Legislature approves automatic expungement bills

And, in April, Whitmer created the bipartisan Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which reviewed the state’s jail and court data to expand alternatives to jail, safely reduce jail admissions and length of stay and improve the effectiveness of the front end of Michigan’s justice system.

READ MORE: Whitmer creates advisory council for jail reform

Those recommendations inspired legislation that the governor signed back in January.