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Criminal justice reform system could soon be law, but advocates say it’s not enough

A guard tower stands overlooking the yard at one of the state prisons in Jackson
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
A guard tower stands overlooking the yard at one of the state prisons in Jackson

Governor Rick Snyder may soon approve a commission to review the state’s criminal justice policies.

Advocates say the state needlessly warehouses some inmates who would not threaten public safety if released. They say that’s a major reason Michigan spends $2 billion a year on its corrections system.

The commission would make recommendations to the Legislature on ways to safely reform the state’s criminal justice system.

House Bill 5928 was part of a larger corrections reform package. The failed bills would have gone much farther to overhaul Michigan’s sentencing, parole, and probation systems. Supporters say they would have also reduced the number of repeat offenders and would have done nothing to compromise public safety.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette and law enforcement groups fought hard to defeat House Bills 5929, 5930, and 5931 during the Legislature’s “lame duck” session. They say they are not convinced the bills would have had no public safety consequences.

“It is a victory for the safety of Michigan families that the most controversial parts of this package were not rushed though at the last minute, while reasonable legislation, like a new review panel to carefully and publicly look at future prison reforms, was approved.  We will always stand on guard for public safety and will continue to monitor the final language in lame duck legislation for anything which would endanger Michigan residents,” said Schuette in a statement earlier this month. 

It is not clear whether advocates plan to reintroduce the failed bills when the new two-year legislative session begins next month.

NOTE: Here are links to the bills –

http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2014-HB-5928 (Sentencing commission – HB 5928)

http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2014-HB-5929 (Parole reentry)

http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2014-HB-5930 (Probation)

http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2014-HB-5931 (Parole criteria)

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