Michigan Judge Denies Release of Teen Incarcerated for Not Doing Homework

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Grace, the 15-year-old Black Michigan teenager who was jailed for falling behind on schoolwork during a global pandemic, was denied release, NBC News reports. Oakland County Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said that Grace was benefiting from a treatment program at a juvenile detention center and isn’t yet ready to be with her mother.


ProPublica first reported on Grace’s story earlier this month, detailing how the teenager was first taken into custody after biting her mother’s finger during an argument and was later charged with theft after stealing a classmate’s cell phone from a school locker. Those two offenses resulted in probation, but Judge Brennan incarcerated the teenager after her mother told a caseworker that Grace fell asleep instead of doing her homework after a check-in. According to case notes, the caseworker wrote that Grace “clearly doesn’t want to abide by the rules in the community,” ProPublica reported.

In a state where Black teenagers are incarcerated at four times the rate of their white peers, it was clear from ProPublica’s reporting that Grace was being more harshly prosecuted than her white peers would be in the same situation. Grace’s story received nationwide attention as protests in Michigan gathered to shout “Free Grace!”

“I miss my mom. I can control myself. I can be obedient,” Grace said at her hearing, NBC News reported. An attorney for the family told the outlet that “the “fight for her release” is ongoing.



Beyond systemic racism and black incarceration, I think this is a story about how we’re continually failing to support the parents of mentally ill children. Privileged parents shell out a lot of money for specialists if they can—this is what happens when they can’t. Biting her mother at the age of fifteen is a huge red flag. I’m not trying to excuse the judge—her actions are bullshit. But the “free Grace” rally cry really isn’t enough. Grace obviously needs more help than she’s receiving. She also needs to be home with her mom.