Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of criminal justice reform bills Monday that supporters said would significantly reshape the state’s probation and parole system.
The measures include reducing adult felony probation sentences from five years to three years, preventing endless extensions on misdemeanor and felony probation terms, limiting jail sanctions for technical probation violations and requiring parole supervision terms to be tailored to a person’s individualized risks and needs.
The bills would also expand shields over young offender records, and decrease the number of non-driving-related crimes punishable by a driver’s license suspension.
Michigan has had the sixth highest rate of probation supervision in the country. With the new measures, the state’s overall caseloads are expected to decrease by 8.4 percent.
Whitmer said the legislation evolved from research by the Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which studied Michigan’s criminal justice and jail systems to determine why the jail population had tripled in 40 years, the Detroit News reports.
The measure was hailed by reform groups as a major bipartisan achievement, reports Billboard.com.
“We thank Governor Whitmer for her fearless commitment and leadership fort bolstering her state’s criminal justice system in a fair and balanced way,” said Van Jones, CEO of the REFORM alliance.
Many of the recommendations of the bipartisan task force are reflected in the 20 bills Whitmer signed Monday, which she said help make the state “a national leader on criminal justice reform.”
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, co-chair of the task force, said the new laws address some of the driving factors pushing non-violent offenders into jails, including violations of probation and suspended licenses.
The bills eliminate some provisions that require licensing sanctions for non-driving related offenses, including drug offenses. The task force said the third most common reason people were in jail in Michigan was because they didn’t have a valid driver’s license, in part due to earlier offenses that triggered licensing loss.
Another package of bills make changes to law that avoid arrests for non-violent offenses and decrease probation and parole mandatory time periods and conditions.
Police will be able to issue an appearance ticket for certain misdemeanors instead of an arrest, a summons in place of a warrant in non-assault cases, expedited arraignments for people who voluntarily report, and a 48-hour grace period between a failure to appear and the issuance of a bench warrant.
Other new laws reclassify traffic misdemeanors as civil infractions and eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain offenses.