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Criminal Justice Bills Headed to Snyder's Desk

Kevin Lavery, WKAR

(MPRN-Lansing) Michigan is on its way toward sweeping changes in its criminal justice system. The State Senate held the final vote on the legislative package Thursday. It’s headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. 

The bills would, among other things, provide more data collection on recidivism, allow reduction in probation time in some cases, and programming for youth rehabilitation. A major goal of the package is to reduce recidivism and crime by providing more support programs and incentives.

“If the focus is on successful outcomes then we have a very real opportunity to see up to 10,000 lives saved by virtue of no longer failing on probation or parole,”

said bill sponsor Republican Senator John Proos. Proos says focusing on programs that will reduce recidivism and crime will also come with an unexpected benefit.

“An ancillary benefit, and one that can’t be underestimated, is the taxpayer dollars that are saved as we reduce the prison population and decrease the supervised population also,” he said.

The legislation has received support from the Attorney General, law enforcement departments, and the Michigan Department of Corrections. Chris Gautz is with the MDOC. He said parts of the legislation codify their current, successful practices.

“There’s still more to do and so we would encourage the legislature to continue down this path but we think that this is a good start and we’re appreciative of the efforts that have been made so far,” he said.

Gautz said the department has been able to reduce the prison population by about five percent over the last few years.

But one bill failed to pass in the House. It would have given incentives to employers that hire people on probation or parole. A last minute amendment requiring the job be posted for six months before the incentive kicked in, turned several yes votes to no.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard said the amendment was an effort to bring more Republicans on board.

“I had no idea that the Democrats were going to walk away from that bill,” he said. “It was unfortunate to see that they let perfect be the enemy of good.”

But Democratic Representative Erika Geiss, who supports the package overall, said the wait period makes it just another job posting.

“To me I thought it neutered it,” she said. “It really gutted the spirit of the intent of the bill.”

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