Home Our Work Our Publications Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | MI

Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | MI

Michigan: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 


  • Adjudication and Sentencing  — Federal Court Orders Michigan to Eliminate Mandatory Life without Parole Sentences for Youth: A federal judge ordered the state of Michigan to immediately comply with the Miller v. Alabama U.S. Supreme Court decision, which eliminates mandatory sentences of life without parole for crimes committed by youth under age 18. The order states that the state must give notice of eligibility of parole to all individuals who have served ten years of their sentence, and to create an administrative structure to process and determine parole for these individuals in a “fair, meaningful, and realistic” manner. Additionally, the order states that the parole board must explain its reasoning in each case; sentencing judges may not veto parole decisions; and the state may not deny individuals sentenced to juvenile life without parole access to any educational or training programs that are available to the general prison population. However, the ruling is currently under appeal and the state attorney general has put a stay on any reviews by the parole board. Hill v. Snyder, Case No.10-14568 (E.D. Mich., Nov 26, 2013).
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Michigan Legislature Creates Community-Based Juvenile Justice Grants for Rural Counties: The Michigan Legislature provided funding within the Department of Human Services to implement the In-Home Community Care Grant, a $1 million grant fund to help rural counties create or enhance existing community-based juvenile programming. In its first year, six rural counties were awarded funding to create evidence-based services, including trauma-informed evaluations and assessments, regional Multi-Systemic Therapy units, and wraparound and intensive probation staff. H.B 4328/Act No. 59, signed into law and effective June 13, 2013.
  • Competency  — Legislature Sets Juvenile Competency Standards for Michigan Courts: Michigan passed two laws that set new competency standards for juvenile proceedings. The laws establish a presumption of incompetence for any child under age 10, and a process for attorneys to raise competency issues for youth 10 and older in juvenile court; require that examiners have experience and expertise in child and adolescent forensic evaluations; require use of the Juvenile Adjudicative Competency Interview (JACI) or similarly-approved evaluative instrument; require youth to be placed in the least restrictive environment while awaiting and undergoing evaluations; and create an avenue for competency restoration before prosecution proceeds, or, in some cases, provision of mental health services if competency cannot be restored. S.B. 246/Act No. 541 and H.B. 4555/Act No. 540, signed into law January 2, 2013; effective March 28, 2013.
  • Juvenile Defense and Court Process  — Michigan Establishes Indigent Defense Commission: The Michigan Legislature created an independent and permanent Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to identify and encourage best practices for defending indigent individuals and to establish, enforce, and oversee statewide public defense standards. In establishing and overseeing the standards, the commission is to emphasize the importance of indigent defense for youth under age 17 who are tried and sentenced in adult criminal court (in Michigan, all youth 17 and older are automatically tried as adults). The legislation notes the importance of lowering caseloads, proper training, continuous representation by the same attorney throughout an individual’s case, and oversight of representation. The law does not apply to youth tried in juvenile court. H.B. 4529/Act No. 93, signed into law and effective July 1, 2013.

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  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Michigan Expands Juvenile Record Expungement: Michigan youth may now petition for expungement of their juvenile records at age 18 or one year after adjudication, whichever is later. Records may be expunged for up to one felony and two misdemeanors, or, if the youth has no felony adjudications, up to three misdemeanors. Any offenses committed together within a 12-hour period are considered one incident. A non-public record will still be maintained by law enforcement. H.B. 5600/Act No. 527, signed into law and effective December 28, 2012.

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  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Legislature Removes Certain Youth from Sex Offender Registries: A new Michigan law removes all individuals from sex offender registries who were under the age of 14 at the time of their offenses. Additionally, those individuals who were 14 or 15 years old at the time of the offense will be moved to the private law enforcement registry for the duration of their mandated registration. Previously, youth ages 15 and younger were placed on the law enforcement-only registry, but then added, with limited exceptions, to the public registry when they turned 18, despite the fact that their offenses took place when they were underage. Youth charged with “age-only consensual” acts—in which there is no more than four years of age difference between the victim and the accused, and which involve a consenting victim—will no longer have to register. Lastly, existing age-only consensual registrants will have the opportunity to petition for removal from the registry. S.B. 188/P.A. 17, signed into law and effective April 12, 2011; S.B. 189/P.A. 18, signed into law April 12, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Juvenile Defense and Court Process — State Launches Juvenile Defense Network and Indigent Advisory Commission: The Michigan Juvenile Defense Network launched in August 2011 to help connect attorneys across Michigan who provide court-appointed legal representation to youth facing delinquency proceedings. The network provides an interactive listserv, hosts trainings, and disseminates information relevant to the practice of family law. Two months after the network was launched, Michigan’s governor issued an executive order to establish the Michigan Indigent Defense Advisory Commission. The commission is charged with investigating how to improve legal representation for defendants who cannot afford an attorney, as well as developing recommendations on how to ensure public defense is consistent across the state. Executive Order 2011-12, signed October 13, 2011.
  • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — State Develops Youth Reentry Infrastructure and Services: The new Michigan Youth Reentry Initiative provides a multi-dimensional framework designed to stop the cycle of crime among Michigan’s youngest offenders and prepare them for successful transitions into adulthood. The model is based on the successful Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative, which serves adults. The three-phase, seven-point youth model describes how stakeholders can collaborate to deliver an evidence-based risk-reduction framework in courts, residential facilities, and communities. As of September 2011, the model was being implemented in the Michigan Department of Corrections’ Thumb Correctional Facility; Michigan Department of Human Services juvenile justice facilities; and Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Village Division. Initial evaluations for each site indicate significant reductions in recidivism since the model’s implementation.

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Photo: Ian Freimuth, under Creative Commons License.