The High Cost of “Justice”: A Snapshot of Juvenile Court Fines and Fees in Michigan

August 2020
By Atasi Uppal, Senior Policy Attorney, National Center for Youth Law

When youth in Michigan enter the juvenile justice system, they face consequences such as probation oversight and out-of-home confinement for months or sometimes years. However, one aspect of the juvenile justice system can upend their lives even longer than those penalties: the financial burden of juvenile court fines and fees. Juvenile court fines and fees include but are not limited to civil infraction fines, attorney fees, probation supervision costs, costs of detention, and costs of counseling and other services. The National Center for Youth Law has been investigating the impact of juvenile court fines and fees in Michigan as part of a multi-state advocacy initiative. Beginning in 2018, NCYL obtained information regarding families’ experiences in several counties, both in response to Freedom of Information Act requests to counties and directly from advocates, community members, and court-involved families who participated in interviews. This brief summarizes its findings and recommendations to date.