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

The House Corrections Appropriations Subcommittee calls for the 11th prison closure in 12 years.

The House Corrections Appropriations Subcommittee passed a budget for the next fiscal year, and it calls for another Michigan prison to close. The West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights was shuttered in recent weeks, and the Pugsley Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula was shut down in late 2016. The subcommittee’s budget proposal calls for the Michigan Department of Corrections to close another facility. It does not specify which facility that should be, but it expects the move will save the state more than $16 million annually. The Corrections Department reports that it has closed or consolidated 26 facilities since 2005 at a savings of nearly $400 million. Michigan’s prison population is down to approximately 40,000 from its all-time high of more than 51,000 in 2007, a change that reflects a bipartisan reform effort in corrections and criminal justice.

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Prison food service, once privatized, will be performed by state workers.

The Corrections Subcommittee also adjusted the 2018-19 corrections budget to account for Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to discontinue privatized prison food service. Prison food service was outsourced five years ago, but the private contractors have faced continuous complaints and problems. The revised budget will provide more than $70 million for the state to hire 352 food service workers.

Advocates of reforming parole are making their fourth attempt in as many years.

Critics of Michigan’s parole process say that too many prisoners are being held past their earliest possible release date. Convicts are sentenced to a range of prison time — one aggravated assault convict received a sentence of 13 months to 20 years, for example. The maximum prison sentence for a crime is set in statute, and judges set minimum sentences in each case by using sentencing guidelines. Prisoners who serve their minimum sentence generally become eligible for parole, but their actual release is at the discretion of the parole board, which may hold them until they have served their entire maximum sentence.

One bill would “establish that the state’s rules for granting parole must be based on ‘objective’ factors, not just ‘substantial and compelling’ ones, and may not deny parole on the basis of ‘subjective reasons such as a lack of insight, insufficient remorse, or an inadequate parole plan.’” The proposal contains objective factors that may be used to justify a parole denial.

The bill, which was introduced in January, passed the House Law and Justice Committee this week and was returned to the House with the recommendation that it pass. This bill is a more modest version of a reform attempted in the past. That proposal was for “presumptive parole,” which would automatically parole prisoners who had served their minimum sentence unless there was a “substantial and compelling” reason to incarcerate them longer.

Related Articles:

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