Juvenile justice beds needed

Michigan has two state-operated juvenile residential facilities: the Shawono Center in Grayling and the Bay Pines Center in Escanaba. The state also has 25 county or court-operated juvenile detention facilities, according to a 2020 report from Wayne State University.

None are in Northeast Michigan.

And those facilities do not offer enough capacity to meet the needs of the juvenile justice system, according to a recent report from the Capital News Service.

When children end up in trouble with the law but there’s no local detention facility to which they can be sent, they are either sent to a facility farther away, or, if a Michigan facility has no room, they are placed out of state.

Either way, that makes visitation by relatives difficult or rare, and puts the children in an unfamiliar setting.

The risk of committing new crimes or ending up in the adult prison system at an older age becomes higher with the lack of parental visitation, sources told Capital News Service.

The state needs to invest in a solution to this problem, both by expanding existing facilities and by building new facilities, especially in Northeast Michigan.

Crime can become a cycle of poverty and more crime. When kids get in trouble with the law and end up in a facility, without the proper support, including parental visits, they can end up committing more crime when they get out. That can land them back in a detention facility and, as they get older, into jail, which can make it hard for them to land a job. Which can send them into a life of poverty. Which can lead to more crime.

Rehabilitating kids early in that cycle is the best way to break that cycle, and Michigan needs to make sure the state has the capacity to do so.

We call on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and lawmakers to look closely at the issue as they begin crafting the 2024 state budget.

We obviously need a significant investment.

And we need it now.


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