WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21 — East Lansing Judge Andrea Larkin wants to protect college students from Lansing jailbirds.
Larkin, chief judge of 54-B District Court, said Michigan State University students from East Lansing shouldn’t be forced to cross paths with “people from Lansing” who might be facing “more dangerous” felonies compared to the younger defendants that typically frequent her local courtroom. She spoke in an interview about the possibility of a regional justice complex.
A shared courtroom or lockup between East Lansing and Lansing would only increase the likelihood that college students — should they get arrested for picking a fight outside a bar — would eventually be housed with the more hardened criminals that are more likely to frequent the justice system in Lansing, she contended.
“It’s the experience,” Larkin added. “It’s the trauma of being housed or being bused with somebody who might act out violently or have a serious mental illness and not be able to bond out for a few days. It’s about the degree of the seriousness of the offense. This is an overwhelmingly young population. It’s not about superiority.”
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor took umbrage. He said Larkin is only pushing “false stereotypes” to drive a wedge between residents in both cities and kill any ongoing efforts toward courtroom consolidation. Lansing residents abide by laws and are proud to live in the city, he said.
“I’m surprised and disappointed that Judge Larkin would push the false perception of Lansing only having hardened criminals and East Lansing only having wayward student offenders,” Schor said. “Lansing is a city of 117,000 people and East Lansing is a city of 48,000, so of course we will have more offenders.”
County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth said Larkin’s argument doesn’t hold water regardless of how her comments were perceived. He noted that defendants from both cities will often eventually land together in the county jail and in many cases, they’ll even become bunkmates. “That happens all the time,” Wriggelsworth added.
State Rep. Sam Singh also emphasized that college students — particularly those at Lansing Community College — frequently live outside of boundaries of East Lansing and well outside the jurisdiction of Larkin’s courtroom. Any belief that East Lansing is a city only filled with college students is “a little misguided,” Singh said.
And bustling college town deals with its own share of violent crime. A man was shot last week — the second shooting in East Lansing this year — after a group of men shoved their way into an apartment near Lake Lansing Road. The man escaped without life-threatening injuries. It was later determined he was not enrolled at MSU.
“I’m just saying we have a lot of college students in East Lansing that are young and don’t have their full frontal lobe development from a psychological standpoint,” Larkin added. “That maybe would’ve prevented them from doing something in the first place. There needs to be some recognition of the demographics in East Lansing.”
Larkin also noted that “a lot of research” corroborates a theory that more violent criminal offenders serve as a bad influence for lower-level offenders when they’re housed together in the same facilities. She also said as a parent, she wouldn’t want her college-aged students mingling with some of the riffraff coming out of Lansing.
“That sounds like a pretty non-valid worry,” added East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows.