Criminal justice reforms headed to governor’s desk

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the Senate’s bipartisan criminal justice reform package. Sen. John Proos has led the effort on the 20-bill package to make reforms throughout the criminal justice system, from probation to prison time to parole and integration back into society.

“These reforms represent best practices from across the country and a fundamental shift from simply punishing criminals to correcting bad behavior and rehabilitating offenders,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Finalizing these reforms is great news for the entire state as this restorative justice effort will result in better outcomes, increased public safety and reduced costs to taxpayers.”

Senate Bills 5-13, 15-24 and 50 include reforms to better track and evaluate recidivism data, expedite medical commutation hearings and encourage partnerships with outside volunteers beneficial to prisoners.

“About 90 percent of Michigan’s 42,000 prisoners will eventually return to our communities,” Proos said. “That is why it is critical that we focus our criminal justice system on using proven, data-driven approaches to efficiently and effectively reintegrate offenders back into our communities with employment and a plan for success.

“These reforms will help more prisoners become productive members of society while also addressing how we keep young people from engaging in a life of crime and turn around those who have started down that road.”

SBs 13, 15 and 17 — sponsored by Proos; Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; and Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake — would limit the revocation time that a probation violator would serve for technical violations, allow judges to shorten a probation term as a result of good behavior and provide an incentive to probation agents and supervisors to keep probationers out of prison.

SBs 23 and 24, both sponsored by Proos, would update the state’s swift and sure probation sanctioning program. The reforms would allow a circuit court to institute a swift and sure sanctions court and accept eligible participants from other jurisdictions.

SBs 5, 6, 7 and 11, sponsored by Proos; Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy; and Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton; are policy recommendations from the governor’s bipartisan Criminal Justice Policy Commission that would establish the definition of recidivism and then create a mechanism to track that data.

“I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and Senate for working in a bipartisan manner to improve our criminal justice system, and I look forward to seeing the governor sign this important package into law,” Proos said.

The bills now head to the Senate for enrollment, printing and presentation to the governor. The Senate is expected to enroll the bills on Thursday.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos will be available at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.

List of the Senate’s criminal justice reforms:

Parole Reform
SB 16 (Proos) creates the Parole Sanction Certainty Act, similar to the existing Swift and Sure probation sanctioning program, to help parolees avoid returning to prison by participating in a program that prepares them for life on the outside.
SB 11 (Colbeck) creates the Criminal Justice Data Collection & Management Program Act to provide for the collection and reporting of data related to crimes, offenders and recidivism.
SB 18 (Horn) requires the Department of Corrections (MDOC) to report parole absconders or those that fail to report to and inform their supervising agent of their whereabouts to the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
SB 19 (Zorn) permits MDHHS to cut off public assistance for confirmed absconders reported to the department by MDOC as required by SB 18.

Probation Reform
SB 13 (Proos) limits the time that a probation violator could serve for technical violations to 30 days imprisonment, not including any new crimes committed while on probation.
SB 15 (Jones) allows a judge to reduce a probation if 50 percent of the term has been served and if a probation officer provides the recommendation, pending a hearing with victims.
SB 17 (Shirkey) creates incentives to reward regional MDOC operations for utilizing practices and procedures that reduce parole and probation violations.
SB 23 (Proos) expands Swift and Sure eligibility as a voluntary program and allows courts to accept participants from other jurisdictions.
SB 24 (Proos) designates Swift and Sure as a specialty court.

Reducing Recidivism
SB 8 (MacGregor) creates the Recidivism Reduction Act to require MDOC and local agencies receiving state funding to supervise probationers and parolees and to utilize evidence-based supervision practices to reduce recidivism.
• SBs 5, 6 and 7 (Proos, Schuitmaker, Knollenberg) update existing laws to uniformly define the term recidivism in Michigan, standardizing the term to mean re-arrest, reconviction or incarceration in prison or jail within five years of release from incarceration, placement on probation or conviction (whichever is latest) for convictions and probation and parole violations.

Prison Reform
SB 22 (Johnson) requires MDOC to evaluate rehabilitation best for 18- to 22-year-old prisoners aimed at reducing recidivism.
SB 10 (O’Brien) requires the MDOC to submit a report detailing the number of prisoners eligible for parole who have not been released.
SB 9 (Proos) requires MDOC to establish a centralized prisoner volunteer registry to allow volunteers to be screened to become registered, qualified prison volunteers.
SB 12 (Jones) expedites the review and hearing process for a reprieve, commutation or pardon based in part on a prisoner’s medical condition.
SB 21 (Warren) allows the Crime Victim’s Rights Fund to be used for minor victims.
SB 20 (Robertson) allows a high school equivalency certificate — not just a GED — to satisfy a requirement for prisoners serving more than two years to be released on parole.
SB 50 (Booher) creates a county bed program for MDOC to utilize as they see best to house qualified low-risk prisoners.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 (Gregory) encourages the governor to change the name of the MDOC to the Michigan Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.