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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: May 5, 2022
Contact: Ruby Schneider
[email protected], 734-585-6714
Washtenaw County Partners Announce New Juvenile Restitution Program
First Of Its Kind Program Will Prevent Unnecessary Youth Justice Involvement; Ensure Prompt Payments to Crime Victims
ANN ARBOR, MI – The Washtenaw Justice Project, in partnership with Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defender’s Office, today announced the launch of an innovative juvenile restitution program. The program will allow justice-involved youth to “earn” money towards mandatory restitution offenses by staying out of trouble and abiding by the terms of their probation.
In Michigan, young people who are deemed responsible for a delinquency offense are assessed mandatory restitution, to be paid to crime victims. Frequently, however, young people lack the resources to pay. That can result in a case remaining open long past the successful completion of a probation term—unnecessarily tethering young people to the criminal system.
The new juvenile restitution program allows young people to “earn” money to be paid towards restitution by doing the right thing, and staying out of trouble. Young people will earn payments to be made directly to crime victims on a periodic basis by abiding by the terms of their probation. If the young person does everything else that was asked of them, they can be expeditiously discharged from probation without prolonged justice involvement as a result of their inability to pay.
The program will be administered through the Washtenaw Justice Project, a new nonprofit organization geared towards enhancing equity, fairness, harm reduction, and transparency in the juvenile and adult criminal legal system. The program is initially being funded through generous grants from the Song Foundation, Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, and the Skillman Foundation.
“This new program is a win-win-win,” said Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit. “It incentivizes young people to get back on the right track. It avoids unnecessarily tethering kids to the justice system for lack of financial resources. And it ensures that crime victims who are owed restitution will be compensated quickly and efficiently.”
Under the program, juveniles can “earn” up to $1,000 towards restitution payments. The Prosecutor’s Office estimates that approximately 75% of juvenile restitution cases are assessed at $1,000 or less.
“Children and teens’ brains haven’t developed to appreciate all the potential options and consequences of their behavior—especially not when it comes to money,” said Washtenaw County Public Defender Delphia Simpson. “The juvenile restitution program will help children and their families with the tremendous debt that can come from poor judgment and youth.”
Money “earned” through the program will be paid directly to crime victims, through the normal court process. Though the money earned will reduce the debt that court-involved juveniles owe, young people will not directly receive funds.
“The WJP Board is so excited to move forward with this initiative,” said Peri Stone-Palmquist, a member of the Washtenaw Justice Project’s Board and Executive Director of the Student Advocacy Center. “We know many young people want to heal harms but feel enormous stress with financial requirements. This provides an important path forward."
The program’s initial funders expressed high hopes for the program.
“At The Song Foundation, we aim to keep justice at the center of everything we do. And we know for children and their families this restitution program will help remove financial obstacles preventing them from being able to move forward with their lives- long after many have already fulfilled the terms of their probation,” said Khalilah Burt Gaston, Executive Director. “We are excited to partner with other funders to support the Washtenaw Justice Project and look forward to how this innovative approach can expand to serve more children in the future.”
“We are working collaboratively with our community to ensure our kids are not handicapped by poverty, and those they harm are able to recover their losses,” said Victoria Burton-Harris, President of the Washtenaw Justice Project and Washtenaw County’s Chief Assistant Prosecutor. “I am grateful to our funding partners. It speaks volumes to have local organizations support this initiative that assists both crime victims and young people who’ve harmed them.”
The Washtenaw Justice Project was launched this year as a collaborative effort to build a fairer and more equitable justice system in Washtenaw County. Its board members are:
Alex Thomas, Community Activist Bryan Johnson, Ann Arbor Board of Education
Delphia Simpson, Washtenaw County Public Defender
Derrick Jackson, Director of Community Engagement, Washtenaw Sheriff’s Office
Desirae Simmons, Co-Director, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice Eli Savit, Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Jeannette Hadden, Community Activist Peri Stone-Palmquist, Executive Director, Student Advocacy Center Victoria Burton-Harris, Washtenaw County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
Yolanda Ragland, Executive Director, Elevation Youth Corp