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Justice

Justice

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Donald Trump made a lot of campaign promises on his long path toward the presidency. But one of his signature issues from the very beginning was immigration. Trump has said repeatedly he plans to deport every one of the estimated 11 million people living without papers in the United States. 

Jamie Rykse was sent to an adult prison after a home invasion when she was 17. "I had been to hell and back," she says now. "I needed help."
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

For the past few years, a campaign has been building to change how Michigan handles 17-year-olds who commit crimes.

As it stands now, those 17-year-olds are automatically charged as adults, and – when convicted – sent to adult prisons.

Advocates say Michigan is one of only seven states in the nation that still do this. And, in the next few weeks, they’re hoping to finally push through a law to change it.

The law already has a lot to say about turning 18. That’s the age you can vote, the age you can join the military, and buy a pack of cigarettes.

flickr/thibaud_saintin

Michelle Gach’s son was taken from her home nearly two years ago, when he was three year old. Police took him after he was found alone in a park across the street from the family’s home.

A judge later terminated Gach’s parental rights. These terminations happen all the time in Michigan. They create a permanent, legal separation between parents and their children. And, once the decision to terminate is made, it’s rarely reversed in Michigan.

But that’s what happened last week in Michelle Gach’s case.

flickr.com/swaity / Licenced under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Today I got an update on a story we reported here in January. It's the story of Michelle Gach, a mother whose parental rights were terminated by a judge after her three-year-old-son was found wandering one morning with his dogs in a park across the street from his house. Gach told me she'd worked into the early morning that day, and her son snuck out of the house "to be a big boy" and walk the dogs while she slept. 

Not long after that incident, police removed Gach's son from her home. She was denied visits. She wasn't offered support services. 

“And they said it’s protocol for going straight for termination.” Gach told me. 

She hasn't seen her son since August 2014. Her rights were officially terminated last year. She appealed.

Yesterday, the State Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case. The judges sided with Gach. They ruled her parental rights should never have been terminated.

And their ruling could have implications for other parents in Michigan as well. 

user Kate Ter Haar / Flickr

Yesterday we heard from an ex-con about what it was like for him to transition from life behind bars to life on the outside. He says having a mentor helped a lot – someone to whom he felt a true sense of responsibility – and he didn't want to screw it up by doing something bad and winding up back in prison. 

I asked a handful of other former inmates to share their advice for those who are about to or are in the midst of transitioning back into society. Here are their answers:

What advice would you give to inmates who are about to re-enter society?

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

How do you navigate life on the outside after you’ve been locked up in prison for years? That’s a question more than 6,000 federal inmates recently faced when they were released early from prison due to changes in how the government sentences drug criminals.

So what does it take to successfully re-enter society?

We put that question to Tim Hurley, an ex-con who did two stints in prison. He says having a mentor once he got out helped him transition big time. 

Research points Michigan toward juvenile justice reform

Aug 21, 2015
Kashfi Halford / Flickr Creative Commons

 Michigan has more reasons now than ever before to consider juvenile justice reform. Something to add to the list: a report released this week by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The report zeroes in on what deters kids from committing crimes in the first place. Most of what we know about recidivism is based on adults. Very few studies have been done with juveniles – until now.  

user miss_millions / flickr

If you're 17 and you commit a crime in Michigan, you are automatically sentenced as an adult. You can't even vote yet, and you're sentenced as an adult. There are only nine states that try 17-year olds as adults, and Michigan is one of them. According to The Marshall Project, there seems to be some momentum to "raise the age" of an adult from 17 to 18 in North Carolina, New York and Wisconsin.

see ming lee / flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two opinions today that, in a practical matter, mean more to low-income families than to anyone else.

There is the Affordable Care Act decision, which protects health insurance coverage of those people who need government subsidies to afford the cost of health care on the exchanges.

aapo haapanen

By now, many of you know about the tragic story out of the Bronx this weekend. 

Kalief Browder was sent to Rikers Island in 2010 when he was 16 years old. He never had a trial or a criminal conviction (the original accusation was that he took a backpack), but he was forced to stay there for three years anyway. Browder struggled after his release, and on Saturday he took his own life.

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