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State seeks ideas to fix juvenile justice problems

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel
Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation

The state of Michigan is offering grants to local governments to help reduce racial disparities in their juvenile justice systems.

To qualify, one thing local governments and court systems will have to do is acknowledge there’s a problem.

“First of all, they’ve got to demonstrate that they have racial and ethnic disparities, that they exist in their jurisdiction,” says Lynn Sutfin, with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “And then they need to propose activities that they think will address those disparities.”

The grants are not limited to urban or rural systems. Sutfin says the goal is to find innovations that will help courts and law enforcement across the state deal with these same issues. She says black teens are twice as likely as white teenagers to be moved from the juvenile system into the adult system to face adult penalties.

The state’s set aside $800,000 for the first round of grants to help courts in cities, townships, and counties reduce unequal treatment based on race or ethnicity.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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