Lack of Detention Centers in Northern Michigan Forces Juveniles to be Moved to Other States

With almost nowhere in northern Michigan to house juvenile offenders, many times they have to be moved great distances.

“The issue that we’re seeing right now is that we’ve had to expand our search for juvenile detention beds further and further away from our local counties and sometimes had to look out of state,” said Judge Valerie Snyder of the 7th District Probate Court.

Lower Michigan has more options for holding these juveniles, but that’s not the case up north.

“They have secure sites but we don’t have that option up here,” said Peter Wallin, Emmet County Sheriff. “If something happens, we have to find a place for them, and it becomes a problem.”

In a recent case involving a 12-year-old in Petoskey, he was forced to be relocated out of state.

“They ended up transporting to a facility, I believe, in Illinois,” said Sheriff Wallin. “That’s how hard it is to find juvenile detention centers.”

Having to travel so far has a huge effect on the families as well.

“Say it happens here and their son or daughter is in Illinois,” said Wallin. “Yeah, you can talk to him on the phone, but it’s not good for a family situation either.”

A law passed in Michigan last year now allows people up to 17 years old to be charged as juveniles, increasing the amount of teenagers needing to be housed under special circumstances, something Sheriff Walling was never in favor of.

“There are some 17-year-olds out there that have done some pretty serious things and it’s not a good mix to put 17-year-olds in with 12-year-olds,” said Wallin. “It’s a recipe for disaster in my book.”

However, Judge Snyder said since the law went into effect, they haven’t been getting an overwhelming increase of juveniles going through the court system.

However, making sure they’re housed properly is still an issue.