Pretrial Juvenile Detention in Michigan

E. Jason Baron, Brian Jacob, Joseph Ryan
Key Findings:

Nationwide efforts to reform the criminal justice system have highlighted the negative impact of pretrial detention among justice-involved adults. However, little is known about how this practice affects justice-involved juveniles despite one in four of them spending time in pretrial detention. In this brief, we offer new evidence on how juvenile detention centers impact later-in-life outcomes—including high school graduation and criminal recidivism—based on a novel dataset that links education, juvenile detention, and adult arrest records for individuals in Michigan between 2007 and 2020. 

This rich dataset allows us to match and compare justice-involved juveniles who were placed in pretrial detention with virtually identical individuals who were not placed. Our findings suggest that pretrial juvenile detention may have limited benefits and higher costs than previously known. We find that:

  1. Black youth are disproportionately represented in juvenile detention centers.
  2. Youth who were placed in pretrial juvenile detention centers were less likely to graduate high school and more likely to be arrested as adults. 
  3. Detained youth were offered more school support services in the immediate aftermath of placement, but these services do not overcome detention’s disruption of schooling and the subsequent higher likelihoods of dropping out and re-offending later. 
  4. There is limited evidence that juvenile detention meaningfully decreases the rate of court “no-shows” or reduces criminal activity pretrial.

Since the costs of pretrial detention appear to overwhelm the potential benefits, our findings suggest that state juvenile justice systems should continue to explore alternatives to this practice—such as home detention or community supervision—to better support youth and improve their later-in-life outcomes. Additionally, greater efforts should be made to integrate juvenile justice data systems and link these data to education, health, criminal justice, and child welfare systems to improve policymaking and outcomes for Michigan youth.

As more jurisdictions explore alternative arrangements for pretrial detention—such as home detention, supervised evening programs, shelters, and electronic monitoring—it is important to consider the impact for detained youth.” Page 3