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?”