Kudos: Michigan leader for youth justice receives award

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Mary King, who led the Michigan Center for Youth Justice (MCYJ) in high-profile efforts last year to protect justice-impacted youth during the COVID-19 crisis and advocate for reforms in youth facilities, particularly following the death of a 16-year-old resident of a Kalamazoo group home, was honored on Dec. 18 with a national award.

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) recognized King as the 2020 Beth Arnovits Gutsy Advocate for Youth. King was selected “for being a voice of strength, consistency and leadership on behalf of youth justice transformation in the state of Michigan,” NJJN officials said on the organization's website. The national network also cites King’s prior achievements with the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility. There, King was the first coordinator for the Children’s Visitation Program, which brought children from all over Michigan for structured visits with their incarcerated mothers.

King, who retired Dec. 31, also worked for eight years as the community coordinator for the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI) in Washtenaw and Livingston Counties, where she brought together stakeholders to provide evidence-based services for returning citizens.

“It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to lead MCYJ over the past five years, as it is the only advocacy organization in Michigan dedicated to transforming our youth justice system,” King said. “I firmly believe that kids who get in trouble are still kids.”

The recognition for King comes as she transitions out of leadership at MCYJ. Jason Smith, currently the organization's policy director, will take over as executive director beginning January 1. Other promotions at MCYJ include that of Heidi Frankenhauser, who will serve as the organization’s deputy director.

The MCYJ is a nonprofit dedicated to creating a more fair and effective justice system for the state’s youth. For more information, visit https://www.miyouthjustice.org/.

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