A legislative package to reform the state’s sentencing system was introduced today by state Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland. The legislation ultimately aims to improve public safety by holding criminals accountable earlier in order to keep them from going to prison in the first place.
Michigan currently pays about $2 billion to keep roughly 44,000 offenders in prison, but still has four of the 10 most dangerous cities in the nation. Haveman has been working on the issue of sentencing reform for the past few years, using a great deal of diligence to examine how to keep offenders out of prison and reduce costs while preserving public safety.
House Bills 5928-5931 restore Michigan’s sentencing commission, create more consistency and certainty throughout the criminal justice system, assure that every individual released from prison receives supervision in the community, and update the state’s community corrections system. Experts have estimated that, over time, the bills will reduce the number of individuals in jail and prison, thereby saving the state and local governments money. Moreover, by reinvesting those savings in probation and parole services, the result will be safer communities and more productive, law-abiding citizens.
“What has traditionally been seen as a progressive issue is really sweeping the nation as a conservative bedrock,” Haveman said. “We have always shared the goals of a family-oriented society in which people are working and contributing to their communities. Less people in prison means less government spending on corrections. There is not a single conservative ideal or goal that is served by locking people away and refusing to consider the consequences of when they are released. It seems to me we should be more concerned with helping people stay out of trouble earlier.
“This is all about outcomes. The possibilities are endless. What could be the outcome of having less people in prison? Of having less crime? Of having revenue that we could spend on schools and roads instead of locking people up? We cannot continue to imprison citizens for longer and longer sentences with no positive outcomes. We must be more effective at reducing crime, which in turn creates safer communities and fewer victims.”
The Michigan Law Revision Commission (MLRC) this week endorsed a report from the Council of State Governments (CSG), who has spent more than two years studying Michigan’s criminal justice system and issued a number of recommendations upon which this package is based. All four of Haveman’s bills have been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
Haveman cautions that all stakeholders and interested parties remain engaged in an open discussion of how to achieve the best version of each bill.
“These proposals are still a work in progress, and I’m thankful for the engagement of stakeholders and everyone I have worked with during the last few years to bring together a solid framework as to how we can best achieve the goal of sentencing reform. I look forward to taking feedback during the committee process and have the highest hopes of seeing legislation signed into law at the culmination of this term.”