Michigan's state-run juvenile detention facilities could lose funding in the coming year, while privately run facilities would get raises.
The three facilities that house Michigan's worst young offenders would get $2 million less under the budget adopted by a conference committee this week -- or a total of about $26 million annually.
They include the Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake, Shawono Center in Grayling and Bay Pines Center in Escanaba.
But lawmakers did agree to give the 49 private residential facilities in Michigan a 7.5 percent increase in funding.
A Department of Human Services spokeswoman declined to say how much the state spends on private juvenile detention facilities. She said Michigan Radio would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get that information.
However, according to a report by a Senate fiscal analyst issued this month, an estimate for total spending in juvenile justice system spending was believed to be between $342 million and $503 million in fiscal year 2009-2010. The author said a firm number was not available because of insufficient data.
The report says 51 percent of Michigan's juvenile justice expenditures went to in-state facilities; 32 percent went to county detention facilities and seven percent was spent on the three public facilities. Nine percent of the estimated annual juvenile justice budget was spent on juveniles in adult prison.
The cuts are worrisome to University of Michigan Professor Emerita Rosemary Sarri. She says private centers are often not equipped to provide education and treatment programs to the toughest offenders.
"The overwhelming majority of youth that are currently in the Green Oaks facility (Maxey Boys Training School) came from private institutions that had them transferred to the state because they could no longer deal with those clientele," Sarri says.
Sarri says cutting funds to state juvenile facilities means more young offenders will be sent to adult prisons.
"That essentially means that their future existence, even if they get out after a long period of time, is probably extremely grim, because prisons are not a good place to grow into adulthood," Sarri says.
Michigan ranks No. 2 in the number of juveniles in adult prison, behind Pennsylvania.
Sarri says the juvenile crime rate in Michigan has dropped dramatically since the mid 1990s.
"We did have many more youth institutionalized in both public and private facilities until about 1997, then the population declined," Sarri says. "We also have waived a number of juveniles to the adult prison for specific crimes that were provided for in legislation passed in 1996."
The Senate fiscal analysis says 218 juveniles were placed in Michigan's three state facilities in fiscal year 2009-10. The average length of each placement was 395 days, compared to 350 days in private facilities.
It says 39% of those juveniles had been rejected by private facilities, which are not required to accept juveniles referred to them by the courts.
The report also says 64% of the youths in state juvenile facilities were placed for committing violent crimes, including murder, assault and criminal sexual conduct.