America is the nation of second chances

The Michigan juvenile justice system allows those under 17 years old to keep an alleged commission of an offense off of a public record by having the judge put a case on the “consent calendar” if the judge determines that protective and supportive action by the court would serve the best interests of the juvenile and the community.

I believe America is a nation of second chances. Allowing the increased use of these informal hearings in Michigan would allow our state’s at-risk young people to pay their debt to society without the scar of a criminal record that limits their ability to get into college or get a good job.

My reform, Senate Bill 251, would lay out guidelines for a juvenile consent calendar, an informal probation or treatment plan usually reserved for first-time or low-risk offenders.

This bill idea came from Southwest Michigan judges, who are active in helping at-risk youth become successful members of the community.

Cass County Probate Judge Susan L. Dobrich recently joined me at the Capitol to share with the House Judiciary Committee the benefits of allowing judges to treat more juvenile cases in informal proceedings.

Under the bill, certain procedures would apply, including:

• The juvenile; the parent, guardian or legal custodian; and the prosecutor have to agree;

• The court can transfer a case from the formal calendar any time before disposition;

• Everyone must be fully compliant with the Crime Victim’s Rights Act and victim notification, if applicable;

• The consent calendar would be nonpublic with access limited to certain people; and

• Upon completion of the consent calendar plan, the court shall destroy all records of the proceedings and report the completion to the state police, who will keep a nonpublic record of the case.

This is about ensuring that the justice system is strict, yet fair in how it treats crimes committed by young people. It can give kids who make a mistake a second chance, which could also help reduce costs in our local jails, state prisons and court system.

The bill has already passed the Michigan Senate, and I look forward to working with Judge Dobrich and my colleagues in the House to enact this reform into law.

 

Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents Southwest Michigan.

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