[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.

Red or Blue, Criminal Justice Still Gets a Green Light

Serve the Public by Protecting the Integrity of Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

How a forensic science commission would help protect citizens … more

Two for Two on Hiring Former Offenders

Red or Blue, Criminal Justice Still Gets a Green Light

Election outcomes matter less when the issue enjoys substantial bipartisan support … more

Make Michigan’s Bail System Smarter, for All of Us

Bail Reform Effort in Michigan: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Why pretrial policy should matter to everyone … more

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

Can Technology Help Predict Crime and Flight Risk?

More courts use actuarial tools to assess risks offenders pose to society … more

New Evidence Suggests Harsher Sentences Don’t Always Deter More Crime

MCPP Scholar releases new research supporting “smart on crime” approach … more

Neither Inmates Nor Counties Get Out of Jail Free

Neither Inmates Nor Counties Get Out of Jail Free

Michigan counties try, unsuccessfully, to pass their jail expenditures on to inmates … more

Lunch for Justice

Kayak Tax Proponents Try to Disguise Cash Grab as Safety Measure

Adding onerous education requirements should not make tax more palatable … more

More Guilty Verdicts Mean More Cash for Local Courts

Three Criminal Justice Proposals before the Michigan House this Week

Here are a handful of bills that are being considered in or advanced out of committee … more

Is it Constitutional to Require Criminal Defendants to Fund Their Own Prosecution?

State Supreme Court considers whether to hear a case presenting this question … more

The Laws of Forensic Evidence

Bipartisanship on Criminal Justice Reform Continues to Grow

Common ground needed to overcome current shortcomings of justice system … more

Juvenile Justice Shouldn’t Create Lifelong Obstacles

The (Un)Virtuous Cycle

Criminal Justice Reform = Workforce Development = Job Creation … more

Crime Shouldn’t Pay, but Requiring Reimbursement May Not Pay Off

Harsher penalties are not as effective at deterring crime as increasing the risk of getting caught … more

Michigan House Votes to Protect Electronic Data

Nearly unanimous in support of prohibiting state cooperation with illegal federal searches and seizures … more

Cash Bail Hurts Innocent Poor People

The practice should be reformed to serve its purpose better … more

Gov. Snyder Should Make Link Between Jobs and Criminal Justice Reform

Tonight’s State of the State will certainly focus on jobs — but shouldn’t ignore criminal justice reform … more

You Can Legally Warm Your Car Now

The Legislature should repeal more nonsensical administrative rules in 2018 … more

State Senate Tightens Rules on Driver’s Licenses

The three-ticket rule may inflict collateral damage … more

Five Important Criminal Justice Reforms

Virtual Justice: Using New Technology in the Criminal Justice System

It can work if used judiciously … more

Why There’s a Revolving Prison Door

Why There’s a Revolving Prison Door

New research suggests that strict parole rules contribute to inflated prison populations … more

Why We Might Not Want to Require Rescue

Proposal to reverse no-duty-to-rescue law needs a deeper examination … more

Criminal Justice Policy Commission Examines Raise-the-Age Proposals

Legislature wants to find out what raising the age limit for adult prosecution might cost … more

The InternNet

Giving Some Ex-Cons a Clean Record Makes Sense

Sheriffs Float the Idea of a Kayak Tax

Just another example of the trough truce … more

How Juvenile Justice Works in Michigan

A brief overview of legal proceedings involving youth … more

‘Raise the Age’ Proposals Pending in Lansing

New legislation would stop automatically treating 17-year-olds as adults … more

Proposed Law Would Allow MDOC to Hire Felons

Bill opens another avenue to former offenders seeking employment … more

To Improve Michigan’s Political Culture, Reverse the Trend Toward Overcriminalization

SWAT Teams Need More Transparency

How Many People Should be in Prison?

No easy answer, but here’s how to think about the question … more