NCYL Teams With MCYJ To Help End Juvenile Fees And Fines In Michigan
In 2019, the National Center for Youth Law partnered with the Michigan Center for Youth Justice (MCYJ) in a combined effort to eliminate juvenile court fees and fines for children and families in the state.
It didn’t take long for that partnership to have an impact.
The organizations celebrated a major success in Macomb County, where the Circuit Court announced in 2021 that it would stop charging juvenile court fees to youth and their families and eliminate $84 million in outstanding juvenile court debt. Shortly after that announcement, Michigan legislators introduced a package of five bills — all supported by NCYL and the MCYJ — aimed at creating “Debt Free Justice” for juvenile court-impacted families.
The bills, which have bipartisan support, are aimed at absolving both youth and guardians from court costs such as probation, municipal fines and court-ordered services. The bills — HB 4987, HB 4988, HB 4989, HB 4990 and HB 4991 — are currently making their way through the state legislature.
The Circuit Court decision in Macomb County marked a major victory for children and families. It immediately stopped the assessment of new fees for the families of justice-impacted youth and cleared debt for families facing such penalties. The court previously required payment of these fees as reimbursement for detention, residential facilities, court-appointed attorney costs and probation.
The decision was informed by “Minors Facing Major Debt,” a year-long study of juvenile court assessment and collection practices in the county.
The “Minors Facing Major Debt” report provides an overview of the impact that these fees have on families. The report notes that Macomb County, in comparison to the 73 other counties that reported assessment and payment data, assessed by far the highest total amount of fees and fines.
NCYL is proud to have helped spur much-needed change for families in Macomb County.
To aid state legislators in implementing broader reforms, NCYL also produced and published "The High Cost of 'Justice': A Snapshot of Juvenile Court Fines and Fees in Michigan." The 13-page report includes information and research dating to 2018 and makes recommendations for healthier approaches based on those findings.
For more information on the NCYL-supported Debt Free Justice campaign, including the campaign’s work in Michigan, visit DebtFreeJustice.org.