This week Gov. Rick Snyder released a broad, ambitious plan for criminal justice reform, seeking to enhance public safety while improving effective policing and the management of the state’s corrections efforts, including the Michigan Department of Corrections. Several of his recommendations draw from Mackinac Center research, including this section of his address, which discussed overcriminalization:
Michigan’s criminal code is one of the longest in the nation with more than 3,000 separate crimes in statute. Most of these crimes have not undergone review since their enactment. The result is a steady increase in the number of criminal laws that impact Michigan’s residents and the penalties that can result. Between 2008 and 2013, Michigan enacted an average of 45 new laws each year, and the average minimum prison sentence increased 8.5 months between 2006 and 2014. These trends cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year and have resulted in nearly 1 percent of Michigan’s residents being under the supervision of the MDOC at any given time.
Discussions have already begun in the Legislature about eliminating redundant and outdated crimes. The initial recommendations include many laws that have not been enforced in decades. Under our criminal code today, accepting a challenge to a duel is punishable by up to one year in jail. Posting reproachful or contemptuous language 11 about a person who refuses a duel, on the other hand, is a six-month misdemeanor. Other Michigan crimes include singing the Star Spangled Banner with “embellishments,” and promoting walkathons that last more than 12 hours. The work to clean up Michigan’s criminal code must continue. Consideration should also be given to the penalties currently in place for a number of laws that are being routinely enforced. Low-level felonies should be reviewed to determine if they are more appropriately classified as misdemeanors and misdemeanors should be reviewed to determine if they should be civil infractions that would not result in a criminal record.
The governor also proposed sentencing and probation reforms, building on research conducted by the Council for State Government in 2014. These ideas merit careful consideration by the Legislature.
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