[Photo of Kahryn Riley]

Kahryn Riley

Director of Criminal Justice Reform

Kahryn A. Riley manages the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's criminal justice reform initiative. A Michigan native, she studied in the honors programs at Hillsdale College and Regent University School of Law. She holds a BA in politics and a JD, and is admitted to the Michigan State Bar.

Riley launched the Center's criminal justice reform initiative in 2016, and publishes regularly on issues pertaining to the state penal code, law enforcement, the corrections system and other matters of public safety and civil rights. Her work has appeared in publications including the Detroit News, the Lansing State Journal, The Hill and USA Today, and she is a sought-after speaker for criminal justice reform events and legislative briefings hosted by advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum. Her forthcoming primer on the state criminal justice system is a unique resource that provides a comprehensive overview of how Michigan addresses crime and public safety.

Riley is also a Visiting Fellow in criminal justice policy at the Badger Institute in Wisconsin, where she supports the Institute’s corrections reform effort. She has previously worked for the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York, FreedomWorks in Washington DC and the Office of the Public Defender in Norfolk, VA. She currently resides in the Lansing area with her husband Brent, a firefighter/paramedic.

How Bail Works in Michigan and Recommendations for Reform

Bail is the process by which criminal defendants secure their release while awaiting trial. It allows people who have been charged with a crime to be released from police custody. In recent years, the criminal justice system has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum because cash bail has come to be imposed on so many criminal defendants. Data increasingly indicate that releasing a defendant pretrial has a significant impact on his long-term prospects. It affects the defendant’s ability to retain his housing, employment, and child custody, the probability that he will go on to commit another crime and even the likelihood of a favorable legal outcome in his case.
Research has also revealed that the majority of jail inmates are legally innocent but are being detained because they cannot afford to bail out before and during their trial. This imposes large costs on local governments but provides no clear public safety benefit. Finally and most importantly, states with misguided pretrial release policies may infringe on defendants’ liberty interests, opening themselves up to litigation and the risk of an injustice. For these reasons, stakeholders and practitioners in Michigan should work to understand the purpose of bail and implement the best pretrial practices for respecting individual rights and public resources.
This report explains in detail how the bail process works and provides recommendations for reforming it in a way that benefits criminal defendants, the court system and taxpayers. … more

Michigan Needs Bail Reform

New report outlines how to improve bail process to benefit defendants and the public … more

Money and Justice in West Michigan

Ottawa County prepares programs to improve both funding and offender success … more

Top Criminal Justice Reform Opportunities

Mackinac Center Applauds Gov. Snyder’s ‘Outside the Box’ Reforms

Reforms expand economic opportunities for Michigan citizens seeking a second chance … more

Coping with the Growing Number of Felons in Michigan

Our courts deliver nearly 50,000 felony convictions per year … more

What's Wrong with Bail Policy in Michigan

Michigan’s Trial Courts Have a Major Funding Problem

The statutory scheme that keeps them running is set to expire in 2020 – and there’s no back up plan in place yet … more

When the Cell Door Closes, a Window of Educational Opportunity Should Open

Three Important Criminal Justice Reform Opportunities for 2018

With fewer than 20 days left in the legislative session, that’s plenty of time to pass good reform … more