Criminal Justice Reform in Michigan

Problem

Michigan has struggled to curb corrections spending for the last 10 years. From 1998-2008, state-funded corrections spending increased by almost 60%: from $1.3 billion to $2 billion. Spending on corrections is such a large share of the state budget that in 2008, one in three state employees worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections. This has become such a problem because of Michigan’s high crime rate, and in turn, high incarceration rate.

Solution

Michigan State Legislature launched the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative (MPRI) in 2003, which was designed to aid with rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders into society. It expanded statewide in 2008. In addition, public officials initiated bipartisan efforts that eventually helped close eight prisons.

In early 2017, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed a bipartisan package of 18 bills with hopes to slow the revolving door of recidivism by modernizing the previously outdated parole and probation policies. The package establishes a maximum of 30 days' of incarceration for parolees who commit technical violations, as well as a Parole Sanction Certainty Program that standardizes consequences for parole violations and allows judges more autonomy with determining parole, among other reforms.

In 2019, Michigan passed several reforms. These reforms include:

Additionally, Clean Slate legislation passed the House in late 2019. If passed by the Senate, these bills would expand access to expungement and expedite the expungement process.

In 2020, Michigan lawmakers introduced legislation that would ban shackling of pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women, grant incarcerated pregnant women access to the necessary medical care, and prohibit incarcerated pregnant women from being placed in solitary confinement. If passed, this legislation would respect the dignity and protect the safety of incarcerated pregnant women and their unborn children.

Results

Post-2007 preliminary figures from the Michigan Department of Corrections showed that parolees released through the MPRI were returning to prison 33% less frequently than similar offenders who do not participate in the program. This reduction in revocations to prison opened up bed space, decreased the number of state-operated correctional facilities, and reduced operating costs, saving taxpayers $120 million. These savings were allocated to create recidivism reduction programs and implement better community supervision programs -- resources that help offenders become productive, law-abiding citizens.