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Whitmer order creates juvenile justice task force

Governor Gretchen Whitmer sitting at a table with a three ring binder. She is sitting in a room with wooden details on the wall and is wearing a white button down with a blue blazer.
Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

A task force will look for more ways to change the state’s juvenile justice system to help young offenders avoid jail time and criminal records. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order creating the task force Wednesday.

“We need to start focusing on uplifting our young Michiganders, and treat them with dignity and respect and, first and foremost, recognize that they are children,” Whitmer said. “We cannot allow an early mistake to define the rest of a child’s life, especially if it’s a non-violent offense.”

A ProPublica investigation found Michigan’s has one of the nation’s highest rates of detaining minors for non-violent offenses.

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist chairs the task force. He said the goal is to find alternatives to punishments that channel young offenders into the criminal justice system.

“One mistake must not define a child’s life,” he said. “We must have systems in place that educate and support our children, especially when they make mistakes, when they’re facing traumatic circumstances, or come into contact with our legal system.”

The task force includes criminal justice experts, representatives from local governments, and Democratic and Republican legislators.

This builds on earlier changes that include raising the age for automatically charging a teenager for as an adult for non-violent crimes to 18 years old – stepping away from Michigan’s adult-time-for-adult-crime policies that were adopted in the 1990s.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.