New Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit has undoubtedly made waves since taking office on January 1. The former schoolteacher and law clerk for the late-Ruth Bader Ginsberg announced that he would end cash bail for defendants because it punished the poor. A week later, he announced that he would not prosecute sex workers engaging in consensual sex.
His latest move in his first month is a 10-page policy directive that states he will not prosecute juveniles for minor offenses, which he believes are better handled outside the criminal justice system.
Savit listed such crimes as:
- Curfew violations
- Running away from home
- Tobacco or vaping offenses
- Marijuana or alcohol use
Sign of the times
It is well-established that the zero-tolerance measures for adults involving drugs and non-violent crimes have done a great disservice to communities around the country. This prompted Congress to draft and former-President Trump to sign the First Step Act in 2018, which is a bipartisan bill for criminal justice reform.
Savit continues this prevailing line of thought by citing scientific research and legal doctrine that it is a mistake to treat children like adults. He pointed out that children are still developing and are more prone to engage in defiant or risky behavior. Simultaneously, a punitive approach to dealing with minors could hinder their emotional, neurological and social growth. He added that a “punishment-oriented approach to juvenile justice is largely counterproductive.”
A change for the better
The prevailing legal winds are good news for folks here in Michigan and other states. Nonetheless, it is still essential for the accused to protect their legal rights with a knowledgeable criminal law attorney. Change is in the air, but a strong legal counsel can ensure that prosecutors follow Savit’s lead and heed those winds.