Stand With Us to #FreeGrace

Oakland County Prosecutor, Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan


Grace, a Black 15-year-old special needs student from Oakland County, Michigan, was sentenced to juvenile detention during the pandemic by Judge Mary Ellen Brennan because she didn’t complete her online schoolwork. Grace’s horrific story and her pleas to go home were spotlighted yesterday in an article in ProPublica. Grace, like countless other Black and Brown children, is the latest casualty of a racial justice crisis known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Grace’s case sheds light on the ongoing criminalization of youth of color through a combination of punitive school discipline policies, charging decisions of local prosecutors, and judges like Mary Ellen Brennan who abuse their power and discretion to destroy children’s lives.

In Michigan, Black youth are incarcerated at four times the rate of their white peers. In Oakland County, where Grace is currently detained, of the 4,800 cases juvenile cases referred to Oakland County Court since 2016, 42% of the cases involved Black youth, while the county is only comprised of 15% Black youth.

Grace’s life matters. The school-to-prison pipeline robs too many Black children of their potential ending educational opportunities and cycling them through the criminal legal system.

Two key actors facilitated this egregious abuse of power and discretion. Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper (up for re-election in November) continues to call for and execute the prosecution of children in both family and criminal courts. Prosecutors decide:

  • WHEN to bring charges against someone,

  • WHO should be prosecuted, and

  • WHAT charges and sentences (or alternatives) to pursue and pleas to accept.

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan made the heartbreaking and unjust decision to order Grace into a juvenile detention facility for failing to do her online schoolwork despite Grace’s efforts and known educational disability. She also facilitated Grace, a teenager, being placed on probation which kept her trapped in the criminal legal system and set her up to being unconscionably punished with incarceration for not completing her schoolwork.

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To: Oakland County Prosecutor, Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan
From: [Your Name]


I, am joining Michigan Liberation, Advancement Project, and Color of Change to stand with Grace. No child should be subjected to such treatment. We envision a world where children and families are supported and have the freedom to thrive, an end to the school to prison pipeline, and a shift away from punishment towards trauma-informed restorative environments for students, teachers, and families.

We Demand:

1) #FREEGRACE Release Grace from Children’s Village into her mother’s custody

2) Judge Mary Ellen Brennan (elected) should IMMEDIATELY resign from the bench of the Oakland County Family Court.

3) Jessica Cooper (elected prosecutor) must drop all charges against Grace immediately and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office must end the oppressive and racist practice of arresting and prosecuting children