Bipartisan comprehensive criminal justice reforms signed into law

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LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday signed bipartisan legislation to make reforms throughout the criminal justice system.

The multi-bill package was spearheaded through the Legislature by Sen. John Proos and includes reforms to reduce recidivism, expedite medical commutation hearings and encourage partnerships with outside volunteers beneficial to prisoners.

“This is a great day for all Michigan residents because these restorative justice reforms will result in better outcomes, increased public safety and reduced costs to taxpayers,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “We came together to achieve a common goal: reduce crime in our neighborhoods. These new laws represent a fundamental shift in our justice system from simply punishing criminals to correcting bad behavior and rehabilitating offenders.”

Senate Bills 13, 15 and 17 — sponsored by Proos; Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; and Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake — would limit the 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.

The bills were signed at the Walnut & Park Café in Kalamazoo. The café is a project of the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program and employs probationers and parolees.

“This program is an example of a key purpose of these reforms: focusing our criminal justice system on using proven, data-driven approaches to efficiently reintegrate offenders back into society with employment and a plan for success,” Proos said. “Roughly 90 percent of Michigan’s 42,000 prisoners will eventually return to our communities, which makes the effective rehabilitation of our prisoners critically important.”

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 8, sponsored by Proos; Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy; and Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford; would establish the definition of recidivism and create the Recidivism Reduction Act.

“The swift and sure and recidivism measures are about putting best practices to use to reduce crime, help more prisoners become productive citizens and keep young people from engaging in a life of crime,” Proos said. “Recidivism is a huge cost to the state and our communities. This new approach will use incentives and evidence-based supervision practices to reduce parole and probation violations and the repetition of crime.”

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

List of the Senate’s criminal justice reforms signed by the governor:

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 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 suspend 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 and reasons 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.