A fair and effective justice system for Michigan’s children, youth and young adults.


We work to advance policies and practices that reduce confinement and support trauma-informed, racially equitable, socio-economically and culturally responsive, community-based solutions for Michigan’s justice-involved children, youth, and young adults.

A letter from our executive director:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I am thrilled to share the significant progress we made in 2022 at the Michigan Center for Youth Justice (MCYJ). Our mission to advance equitable youth justice policies and practices has led us to sow the seeds of transformative change within Michigan’s juvenile justice system.

In 2022, we completed a strategic planning process to guide our work over the next three to five years. This process outlined clear goals, including developing policy priorities and engaging directly impacted individuals. We are proud of our achievements in involving directly impacted youth and families and are committed to building on this progress.

In 2022, we worked to

  1. Move forward legislation that will eliminate the majority of juvenile court fines and fees;

  2. Advocate for additional reforms identified by the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform;

  3. Supported youth voice and leadership development through partnerships and initiatives;

  4. Expand workforce development opportunities statewide for justice-impacted young adults;
  1. Build on our efforts to create a model anti-racist juvenile justice system in Kalamazoo, MI;

  2. Educate the public and our supporters through numerous events, ranging from professional development to fundraising and volunteer engagement opportunities;

  3. Change the narrative on juvenile justice through media interviews, community engagement, and innovative storytelling; and

  4. Conclude three years of work to improve conditions for justice-involved LGBTQ+ youth in Wayne County
Debt-Free Justice
Legislative Advocacy and Engagement
In Pursuit of Debt-Free Justice

Through collaborative partnerships, MCYJ successfully advocated for legislation that aims to eliminate the majority of juvenile court debt. We engaged legislators through impactful legislative advocacy days and utilized various media channels to raise awareness about the detrimental impact of this issue, promoting evidence-based narratives to underscore the urgent need to reform Michigan’s juvenile court debt policies and practices.

As part of our advocacy efforts, MCYJ released a guidebook in 2022 titled "Debt Free Justice for Court-Involved Youth and Their Families: A Do It Yourself Guidebook for Michigan Juvenile Courts." This guidebook resulted from our partnership with Macomb County in 2021 to analyze the assessment and collection of juvenile court debt. Although the legislation did not receive a hearing in the legislature, we are optimistic about future reform due to our ongoing efforts and partnerships.

Task Force
Legislative Advocacy and Engagement
Task Force Report and Recommendations

In July 2022, the bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force, led by Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and formed by Governor Whitmer, released a comprehensive report outlining 32 recommendations to improve Michigan's juvenile justice system. MCYJ has adopted these recommendations as the framework for our policy priorities in the 2023-24 state legislative session, with a particular focus on six key priorities:

• Enhancing the Child Care Fund
• Expanding the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission
• Strengthening and Expanding the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman
• Expanding the Diversion Act
• Enhancing Traditional Waivers and Designations
• Eliminating Juvenile Court Fines and Fees

In Home Care
Legislative Advocacy and Engagement
Rural In-Home Care Grant

MCYJ advocated for new funding for the In-Home Care Grant, which was ultimately included in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The In-Home Care Grant funds rural counties to establish or expand evidence-based alternatives to out-of-home placement, such as multisystemic therapy, wraparound services, and family-based therapy. These alternatives are more cost-effective and have been proven to produce better outcomes for youth. The In-Home Care Grant has been successful in prior years, and MCYJ is confident that it will continue to be successful in the years to come.

Legislative Advocacy and Engagement
WMU Fellows Program

The Western Michigan University Lewis Walker Institute's Youth Juvenile Justice Fellows program brings together a diverse group of youth leaders passionate about transforming Michigan's juvenile justice system. The one-year fellowship equips youth with advocacy skills to engage decision-makers, organize, and share their stories. For the second year in a row, MCYJ partnered with WMU to provide training sessions for the fellows, who met with local legislators during a visit to Lansing, proposing solutions and sharing the impacts of the juvenile justice system on their lives. MCYJ is grateful to support the impactful work of the Lewis Walker Institute and thanks the Public Welfare Foundation for funding the program.

In Home Care
Legislative Advocacy and Engagement
Workforce Development

MCYJ has placed a high priority on advocating for workforce policies and programs that specifically target justice-involved youth. In pursuit of this objective, we have partnered with the Michigan Works! Association to actively promote the expansion of state-funded programs that offer valuable workforce development opportunities to youth throughout Michigan. These programs are designed to provide court-involved youth or those at risk of involvement with valuable experiences and skills that contribute to improved outcomes, as research has consistently demonstrated the potential of workforce development in reducing recidivism rates.

We believe the Michigan legislature will allocate the necessary funds in the 2024 state budget, ensuring broader accessibility to vital workforce development opportunities for our youth.

Task Force
Legislative Advocacy and Engagement
Youth Voices Mini-Grants

In 2022, MCYJ awarded seven organizations funds from our youth speaker stipends budget through a novel mini-grant program entitled Youth Voices. The mini-grants were given to organizations engaging justice-involved youth and others at risk of justice involvement in ways that highlighted their voices and stories. The funds went directly to young people as reimbursement for sharing their stories or to provide opportunities for creatively sharing stories, such as through writing, poetry, or visual arts.

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At MCYJ, we value...

Community and Connection:

Youth deserve to remain connected to their families and communities, even if they become justice system-involved. They should be recognized for their strengths and value, not just for their mistakes.


We are results-driven and work with integrity. We can be counted on to deliver fair, equitable justice reform for Michigan’s children, youth, and young adults.


All youth should be treated in a fair and just manner by the youth justice system, regardless of who they are or where they come from.


People who are impacted by a problem should be at the center of our advocacy. We believe in creating a big tent. Nonpartisanship and divergent perspectives create better solutions.


Every problem has a solution if we work together, think outside the box, and are willing to try new things.


The youth justice system should be restorative and rehabilitative. Kids who get in trouble are still kids.

Events and Education

2022 Spring Gala
2022 Spring Gala

MCYJ held its first in-person Gala
in over three years on May 5, 2022.

Professional Development Training
Professional Development Trainings

Virtual training events with local experts

Community Engagement

In 2022, MCYJ’s community outreach program continued to take action in line with its motto: “Changing the narrative about youth justice.” Part of that was our new Farmers Market Project, where our volunteers across the state talked to people in their communities over the summer about youth justice and collected signatures for a postcard campaign.

In July, we concluded our Michigan Medicine Pediatric Community Health partnership, which started in June 2021. We joined forces with 90+ pediatric residents and interns at Michigan Medicine to meet with legislators, create social media posts, and write op-eds about youth justice topics.

MCYJ launched its podcast, “The Table: Conversations on Youth Justice” in January of 2022. In our first season, we reached hundreds of people across Michigan and discussed various topics regarding the youth justice system. We also talked to several experts, including ACLU legal director Dan Korobkin and now-Chief Justice Elizabeth Clement.

One conversation at a time, MCYJ’s efforts to reach people where they are have brought us closer to changing the narrative about youth justice.

2022 Spring Gala
Cards and Community

In December, MCYJ hosted the annual Cards & Community event

Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM)
Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM)

October 2022

Project Coordination and Facilitation

Continued Work Toward an Anti-Racist Juvenile Justice System

MCYJ continued partnering with Kalamazoo County community stakeholders to create an anti-racist juvenile justice model, focusing on reducing racial disparities. MCYJ supported the Campaign for Criminal Justice Transparency (CCJT) in creating a publicly accessible online database and advocated for an annual Youth Justice Data Snapshot. Additionally, MCYJ collaborated with CCJT members to develop a restorative practices-informed arrest diversion program, addressing racial disparities at the point of arrest. As part of the Kalamazoo Plan for Peace, a community-wide effort to stop gun violence and create therapeutic systems that promote healing and justice, MCYJ participated in workgroups and provided technical assistance to organizations in the diversion continuum, ensuring effective cross-system collaboration and implementation.

Advancing Justice for Youth with Diverse SOGIE in Wayne County

MCYJ recently concluded its three-year Advancing Justice for Youth with Diverse SOGIE project in Wayne County. For this project, MCYJ developed an e-learning training curriculum titled “Serving the Whole Youth: Gender Affirming Care in Juvenile Justice Settings” and trained staff facilitators at three of the five Wayne County Care Management Organizations to support gender-affirming care and improve outcomes for justice-involved LGBTQ+ youth.

In addition to the training, MCYJ conducted stakeholder interviews with juvenile justice professionals and impacted youth to gather information and data for a report on the issue of youth remaining in juvenile facilities past their discharge dates because they had nowhere to go upon release. The resulting report, Locked Up Too Long, highlights key disparities in services between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and proposes potential solutions to address the problem. We hope this report will be instrumental in raising awareness of the issue for those empowered to drive meaningful change in Wayne County’s juvenile justice system.

Board and Staff

Board of Directors:

Eric Sturk, CPA – President
Roy, Noye & Warren, CPA, P.C.
Ronald Simpson-Bey –Treasurer
Just Leadership USA; Returning Citizen
John Broad – Secretary
Retired, President, Crime Stoppers of Michigan
Fonsea Bagchi
Youth Board Member
Linda Edwards-Brown
Retired, Washtenaw County Juvenile Court Administrator

Melanca Clark
President and CEO, Hudson-Webber Foundation
Melanie Odom
Philanthropy Strategist
Michelle Rowser
Insight Youth and Family Connections
Paul Elam, Ph.D.
Chief Strategy Officer, Michigan Public Health Institute

Staffing Changes:

It was a year of staff transitions as MCYJ welcomed Communications Coordinator Macayla Jones, as well as a new Policy Director, Jennifer Peacock, who previously worked at the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth in Washington, D.C. 

MCYJ bid farewell to Outreach and Engagement Manager Husain Haidri and Project Coordinator Sarah Taylor, who transitioned to short-term contractor positions to pursue further education, and Policy Associate Gabrielle Dresner, who moved on to a new policy position with the ACLU of Michigan.


  • Public Welfare Foundation
  • McGregor Fund 
  • Hudson Webber Foundation
  • Michigan Justice Fund
  • Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan
  • Skillman Foundation
  • Kalamazoo Community Foundation
  • Schusterman Family Philanthropies


Revenue: $626,542

Expenses: $712,739


$1,000 +

David Rosen
Frank Bertram
Jennifer Haines
Mary King
Michelle Rowser
Clark-Turay Family Fund

"As a teacher who worked with many young people who were unjustly brought into the carceral system and who were irreparably harmed by it, it has been vital to me to support the work that Michigan Center for Youth Justice does. While we support other area agencies in terms of their work with individual young people, MCYJ provides the necessary legislative piece to move Michigan towards a justice, rather than simply carceral, system."

$501 - $1000

Ann Marston
Elizabeth King
John Broad
Kate Markel
Kristen Staley
Marian Laughlin
Melanca Clark
Paul Elam
Robyn Anspach
Sharon Kardia
Steve Hoekman
Susan Randall
Syndallas Baughman
Terri Gilbert
Beth Israel Congregation
Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

$101 - $500

Adam Grant
Alan C. Young
Amy Harris
Amy Higgins
Amy Rebant
Anell Eccleston
Ashley Goldon
Belinda Dulin
Bob Higgins
Carolyn Gould
Carrie and Gregg Hammerman
Catherine McCracken
Chelsea Jewell
Chuck Warpehoski
Colleen Tassie
Darcy McConnell
Dave Valko
Debbi Schaubman
Deborah Shaw
Debra Wright
Derrick Jackson
Edith Kieffer
Eli Savit
Eric Sturk
Felecia Tyson
Gabrielle Dresner
Glenn Hendrix
Harvey Somers
Heidi Frankenhauser
Jacob Weintraub
James Sidney Keller
Jay Cummings
Jason Smith
Jillian Myers
Joseph Summers
Kathy Wyatt
Kelly Scheu
Kim Thomas
Lawrence Root
Licy Cahill
Linda Edwards-Brown
Maggie Bayless
Mark Creekmore
Matt Hoerauf
Melanie Odom
Michael Steer
Peggy Korpela
Sally Preston
Sara McCauley
Sarah Taylor
Suzanne Fisher
Peggy Korpela
Peri Stone-Palmquist
Rajan Bagchi
Suzanne Fischer
Paul Elam
Virginia Orabone
Woodi Krutek
LPL Financial
Northside Presbyterian Church

$1 - $100

Alyshia Dyer
Bennett Stein
Brandy Ellison
Carolyn Madden
Catherine Brown
Darryl Johnson
Elizabeth George
Gina VanDuinen
Jennifer Harrison
Jillian Downey
Kathie Gourlay
Laura Gretzinger
Layla Ananda
Leonore Gerstein
Linda Shafer
Loraie Grayson
Lynn Marana
Molly Greene
Nicolette Hoard
Rodney Beckwith
Ronnie Waters
Scott Ellis
Terri Fultz

MCYJ is a 501c3 charity (EIN: 38-2108273)
©2023 by Michigan Center for Youth Justice

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I am thrilled to share the significant progress we made in 2022 at the Michigan Center for Youth Justice (MCYJ). Our mission to advance equitable youth justice policies and practices has led us to sow the seeds of transformative change within Michigan’s juvenile justice system.

In 2022, we completed a strategic planning process to guide our work over the next three to five years. This process outlined clear goals, including developing policy priorities and engaging directly impacted individuals. We are proud of our achievements in involving directly impacted youth and families and are committed to building on this progress.

As a member of  Gov. Whitmer’s  juvenile justice reform task force, I actively contributed to the development of recommendations for a data-driven, trauma-informed, and evidence-based juvenile justice system with statewide standards. These recommendations, if fully implemented, would bring about a transformative shift, liberating Michigan from outdated approaches and embracing a youth justice model that genuinely prioritizes the well-being and future success of our youth.

In the face of a flawed national narrative on youth crime and overcrowding in Michigan’s youth detention facilities, we worked tirelessly to challenge this perception through media engagement and public discussions. We advocated for rehabilitative treatment and addressing the needs of children involved in or at risk of involvement with the legal system.

With recent changes in the Michigan legislature, we are optimistic about positive youth justice reform. Together, we can implement the recommendations of the task force and create immediate, transformative change.

Please join us in our virtual annual report for a detailed account of our 2022 accomplishments. Thank you for your continued support of the Michigan Center for Youth Justice.


Jason Smith