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Juvenile offenders in Washtenaw County get help paying restitution — if they do everything else right

young person in trouble
Christopher Catbagon
Washtenaw County will enroll some juvenile offenders in a program to help them pay their court-ordered restitution

Washtenaw County is launching a new program to help juveniles who've been ordered to pay restitution for their offenses.

The program will address a barrier that keeps coming up for young offenders, according to Victoria Burton-Harris, the chief assistant prosecuting attorney for Washtenaw County.

"At the end of their probation term, they were unable to have their case closed out and were being tethered to the court system because they had outstanding restitution that they could not afford to pay," she told Michigan Radio.

Burton-Harris said not having cases closed for long periods of time, simply due to unpaid restitution, can create problems for young people in numerous ways. For example, they can't travel out of state to see relatives or attend funerals of relatives.

And she said the situation adds to the mental health burden that young people are already feeling during the pandemic.

"They're experiencing insurmountable challenges simply because of the pandemic and having been pulled out out of school," she said. "So we're seeing young people come into this system, and we're seeing them try to get it right, and we just want to help."

The program will pay the restitution — as long as the youths meet all the other terms of their probation.

The initial funding of $30,000 comes from the Song Foundation, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and the Skillman Foundation.

Initially, only juvenile offenders, age 17 and under, who enter the justice system as of May 5, 2022, will be eligible to apply for the program.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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