MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) — Macomb County Circuit Court no longer will require families of young people going through the criminal justice system to provide reimbursement for detention, housing in residential facilities, court-appointed attorney costs, and probation.

The court’s decision last month to stop the previously required fees will result in a discharge of $84 million in debt owed by families which date back to the 1990s.

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It follows a year-long study that showed a majority of the assessments go uncollected, Black youth were overrepresented in the county’s youth justice system and the imposition of fines and fees made it more difficult for probation supervisors to do their job.

“Not only did we discover that we have barely been covering our costs to collect, more importantly, we gained an understanding of how harmful juvenile court debt can be to families and that it can actually be a barrier to treatment and rehabilitation,” Circuit Judge James Biernat Jr. said in a release.

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Twenty-one families were interviewed as part of the study, which was completed this year in partnership with the Oakland, California-based National Center for Youth Law and the court’s juvenile division. It was funded through a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan.

Each family interviewed for a report on the study said they never would not be able to pay off juvenile court fees assessed to them. The report also says the average collection rate was 7.2% from 2015-2019.

About 45% of the youth in detention placements in 2019 were Black.

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