KIDS COUNT: Fewer kids locked up

Contact: Jane Zehnder-Merrell  (517) 487-5436 or Michelle Weemhoff (517) 482-4161

Positive trend: Michigan locks up fewer kids
State rate fell 44 percent since 1997

[LANSING, MICH] – Although the youth incarceration rate in Michigan dropped below the national average between 1997 and 2010, the state still locks up too many nonviolent teens, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Even with the decline, almost 2,000 Michigan youth under age 21 were living in juvenile residential facilities in 2010 on a single day count. Roughly four of five of these young people were male, and half were African American, according to the online Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement.

“Research shows that placing youth in these facilities does not improve their life chances nor reduce recidivism,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the Kids Count in Michigan director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “And the negative impact of this approach disproportionately affects African American youth who have much higher incarceration rates.”

Michigan’s overall rate dropped 44 percent between 1997 and 2010: from 369 incarcerated youth per 100,000 in 1997 to 208 per 100,000.

While this substantial decline pushed the Michigan rate below the national rate (225 per 100,000) by 2010, the state rate was almost four times that of Vermont with the lowest rate (53 incarcerated youth per 100,000).

“Michigan is making progress on providing community based alternatives for youth,” said Michelle Weemhoff, Senior Policy Associate at the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.  “But the state still has much work to do to ensure that every county can offer low cost but highly effective programs that work with the whole family.”

Most of confined youth have committed nonviolent crimes that would not threaten public safety, according to the report, Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States. Only one of every four youth confined in these facilities has committed a violent offense.

In Michigan today most juvenile offenders are placed in private residential facilities, costing taxpayers from $250 to $500 per day, with average placement of a year – a staggering $91,000 to $182,000 annually per youth.

Data shows these juveniles now in residential treatment programs have a 70 to 80 percent chance of reoffending within three years.

By comparison, in-home treatment programs cost from $10 to $65 daily. In a study of evidence-based programs, the likelihood of a juvenile being rearrested following in-home treatment is 35-63 percent lower than for those in residential programs.

This issue and others will be examined in detail at the Michigan Summit on Juvenile Justice, set for March 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mackinac Room of the Michigan House of Representatives office building. The Summit is focused on educating legislators and policymakers about Michigan’s policy priorities for a smart juvenile justice system. Juvenile justice stakeholders from around the state, including youth and families, will also be in attendance to provide resources and share their perspectives. For more information and to register, visit

The report, KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot: Youth Incarceration in the United States, can be found at


The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, local United Ways and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More information about child well-being is available at and state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center,