ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Millions of dollars are now being used to help keep at-risk youth and young people in trouble with the law out of prison.
The program in Washtenaw County is aiming to make a difference and it starts at home.
The Washtenaw County Board has committed to spending $11 million dollars on youth intervention services, an investment experts say will truly make a difference.
“If I would have had a mentor at the age of 16 or 17, things may have very well turned out so much differently,” says exoneree Darrell Siggers.
Imprisoned for 34 years for a murder he did not commit Siggers knows firsthand how precious life can be and how easily young people can make mistakes.
He’s now an advocate for prison reform and glad to see counseling, youth drug, and jail intervention services being prioritized in Washtenaw County.
Federal aid dollars will help fund in-home and foster care as well says county prosecutor Eli Savit.
“The best thing we can do is to provide mentorship opportunities to help young people grow. How critical was it to get this funding? We talk about spending money, and we have a choice to pay on the front or back end,” says Savit.
Dealing with trauma research shows behavioral issues can start in the home, another reason youth development specialists will be used county-wide. That’s music to the ears of former State Rep. Sherry Gay Dagnogo, a major supporter of ending mass incarceration.
“They’re crying out for help,” she says. “Our young people don’t always know how to have conversations about how they feel. Making investments like this will certainly stop and halt behavioral challenges and provide tools to manage.”
Tools Darrell says many locked up never had the chance to develop. Along with saving money in the long run, he adds by having fewer inmates we can better spend resources and have a safer community by supporting jobs skills & combating substance abuse.
“At-risk youth and we have a lot without a two-parent home, and it’s so important. So, these counseling programs and money they are dedicating, I just think it’s wonderful, necessary and a positive thing to do,” he says.
The court system and children’s services also play a role in this initiative, along with the Prosecutor’s office. Together, they hope to help more kids turn their lives around.