A minor jailed for not doing her homework

The US loves putting people in jail and in prisons, doing so for all manner of offenses that are non-violent and quite minor, such as inability to post bail or pay fines. This explains why the number of people incarcerated is far greater than in any other country. What is worse is that it also jails minors and ProPublica describes a particularly egregious case.

The Michigan Supreme Court said Thursday it is reviewing the circumstances of a case involving a 15-year-old girl who has been in detention since mid-May after a judge determined she violated her probation by not doing her online schoolwork during the pandemic.

The girl, Grace*, was a high school sophomore in Birmingham Public Schools when she was charged with assault and theft last year. She was placed on probation in mid-April and, among other requirements, was to complete her schoolwork. Grace, who has ADHD and receives special education services, struggled with the transition to online learning and fell behind.

Oakland County Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Family Division, found Grace had violated probation by not completing her schoolwork and ordered her to detention. She concluded Grace was a “threat to (the) community” based on the prior charges of assault and theft.

In the court filing Thursday, one of Grace’s attorneys, Jonathan Biernat, wrote that the decision to detain the teenager was contrary to that order because she was “detained based on incomplete schoolwork, which hardly presents a risk of harm to either the community,” or herself.

The violation of probation involved only incomplete schoolwork and failure to get up for school, and both the mother and daughter have pleaded with the judge to allow them to be together at home.

She has already been in detention for two months. It just shows how deeply the punitive mindset is ingrained in the US (in)justice system that there was no point at which someone in authority involved in the process said, “Wait a minute. Are we really going to put someone in detention for not doing their school homework?”


  1. says

    Never lose sight of the fact that the reason the USA has been so propagandized to love locking people up is because it is highly profitable, only STARTING at the fact that being in prison is the exception to the 13th amendment.

  2. Who Cares says

    So let me get this straight. The answer to someone not finishing their homework due to not having direct access to a teacher as they’d have in a class is putting them in a place where the the same circumstances that prevented them from finishing their homework are amplified?

    Let me guess she can go if she completes the homework that seems she needs one on one with a teacher for to get it
    explained to her. Which would require that she’d be released from jail.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    From the link:
    “Some [protestors] made signs — “Black Lives Matter” and “Free Grace” — and taped them on their windows. Grace is African-American.”

    It’s OK.. We’d guessed that last part. It’s not exactly a Keyser-Soze’s-real-identity-level twist.

  4. robert79 says

    As a teacher, reading this:

    First thought: “Hah, serves them right! Wish I could hold this over some of my slackers!”
    A microsecond later: “Wait…. This is a parody right? No one in their right mind would do this?!?”
    After reading the full story, I was just plain horrified… I will not commit the sound I just made to text, as merely reading it might harm your sanity.

  5. publicola says

    @4: A perfect example of right- wing logic. (That may be an oxymoron, or maybe a bunch of morons.)

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