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BJA Justice Reinvestment Initiative
BJA Justice Reinvestment Initiative

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • In conjunction with the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Michigan Law Revision Commission (MLRC) set out to analyze Michigan's sentencing guidelines and recommend policies to reduce recidivism.
  • MLRC and the CSG Justice Center found inconsistencies in sentencing and lengths of stay, high rates of recidivism, and ineffective allocations of resources to successfully reduce recidivism.
  • Respectively, House Bills 5928 and 5929 established the Criminal Justice Policy Commission to continue analysis of sentencing practices and focus resources on programs proven to reduce recidivism.
In 2014, Michigan enacted justice reinvestment through House Bills (HBs) 5928 and 5929. Among other changes, these bills created a new Criminal Justice Policy Commission to continue analyzing Michigan's sentencing guidelines and revised community corrections funding mechanisms to emphasize reducing recidivism.

Michigan reported a 15 percent decrease in violent crime from 2008 to 2012 and a declining rearrest rate of 20 percent for people on parole.1 Despite these outcomes, Michigan continued to struggle with increasing costs, a growing prison population, and persistent high violent crime rates.2 In response, state leaders sought a better public safety return on taxpayers' investment in corrections by participating in JRI. Through JRI, the state sought to examine the effects of its decades-old sentencing guidelines on public safety, recidivism, and state and local spending.

Governor Snyder designated the existing MLRC to lead the justice reinvestment, with intensive technical assistance provided by the CSG Justice Center. MLRC, composed of legislators and appointed members, was established in 1965 to identify problems in state statutes and judicial decisions and recommend needed reforms to the legislature.3

MLRC and the CSG Justice Center worked together to hold meetings with numerous stakeholders across the state, including judges, prosecutors, legislators, business leaders, treatment providers, sheriffs, county leaders, and others.4

After extensive analysis of state data, the CSG Justice Center presented its analysis and findings in a final report to MLRC in May 2014.5 The report detailed cost and population drivers, including inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the state's complicated sentencing system, and a lack of monitoring of sentencing outcomes. The analysis found that individuals with similar criminal backgrounds convicted of similar crimes often receive significantly different sentences, and the length of a sentence does not clearly predict how much time a person will actually serve. Moreover, supervision resources are not targeted to programs and services shown to reduce recidivism, and high rates of recidivism generate further costs. Finally, Michigan officials lack the tools to properly evaluate and monitor the sentencing system for its impact on the larger criminal justice system.

The CSG Justice Center worked with Michigan to outline seven policy options to improve sentencing consistency and predictability, increase public safety, reduce costs, and evaluate and monitor outcomes. These policy options included: (1) structuring guidelines to produce more consistent sentences; (2) increasing the predictability of time served at sentencing; (3) using risk to inform levels of community supervision; (4) increasing public safety return by holding individuals on probation and parole accountable for violations; (5) concentrating funding on programs proven to reduce recidivism; (6) monitoring changes to sentencing practices; and (7) surveying statewide levels of victimization and tracking restitution payments.6

Legislative leaders worked to codify these policy options and presented four bills during the last weeks of the 2014 legislative session. After numerous meetings with stakeholders and discussions in the chambers, the legislature passed two of the four criminal justice bills. HB 5928 created a structure to continue analysis of Michigan's sentencing practices and justice system for 1 year by establishing a Criminal Justice Policy Commission.7 HB 5929 renewed and revised the existing Community Corrections Act to concentrate community corrections funding on programs proven to reduce recidivism.8

The bills Michigan enacted did not require implementation assistance and Michigan concluded its work as part of JRI in January 2015.9 However, state leaders continue work to strengthen the criminal justice system and build upon the work done through JRI.10 For instance, in 2017, Governor Rick Snyder signed several criminal justice bills into law aimed to reduce recidivism and update probation and parole policies.11

Related Resources

  • Visit The Council of State Governments Justice Center website for more information and related resources about Michigan's JRI efforts. Site

Updated May 2017

Notes

1 Council of State Governments Justice Center, May 2014, "Applying a Justice Reinvestment Approach to Improve Michigan's Sentencing System," New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center. PDF
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2009, "Policy Options to Deter Crime, Lower Recidivism, and Reduce Spending on Corrections," New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center. PDF
5 Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2014, "Report Technical Appendix: Compilation of Michigan Sentencing and Justice Reinvestment Analyses," New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center. PDF
6 Council of State Governments Justice Center (2014).
7 H.B. 5928, 97th Leg., 2014 Reg. Sess. (Mich. 2014).
8 Ibid.
9 Communication with the Council of State Government Justice Center, 2015.
10 Snyder, Rick, 2015, "A Special Message from Governor Rick Snyder: Criminal Justice," Lansing: State of Michigan Executive Office. PDF
11 Monacelli, Emily, March 2017, "Gov. Rick Snyder signs criminal justice reform bills," MLive.com. Retrieved from: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2017/03/gov_rick_snyder_signs_criminal.html
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