Criminal justice reforms introduced in Senate

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. – Legislation that would reform criminal justice in the state was recently introduced, said Senator Margaret O’Brien, a cosponsor of the 20-bill package.

The legislation is a continuation of efforts from last term. Similar bills were approved last year by the Senate, but did not receive approval in the House of Representatives.

“Michigan’s criminal justice system is in need of reform, to help reduce the bitter cycle of imprisonment and its associated costs to society, while also ensuring public safety,” said O’Brien, R-Portage, who sponsored Senate Bill 10. O’Brien’s bill would require the state Department of Corrections to submit a quarterly report to the Legislature that explains the number of parole-eligible inmates and why those individuals have not been paroled.

Among reforms included in the package are ways to better track and evaluate recidivism data, expedite medical commutation hearings, encourage partnerships with outside volunteers beneficial to prisoners, expand the use of a consent calendar for juveniles, and provide a tax credit for employing a probationer or parolee.

The proposals address probation reforms and would limit the revocation 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.

Other bills in the plan 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.

“About 50 percent of those incarcerated in Michigan are repeat offenders, and we need to do something to help break this cycle and prepare them to lead successful lives when they return to society,” O’Brien said.

Senate Bills 5 – 24, SB 50 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 were referred to the Senate’s Michigan Competitiveness Committee for consideration.