Governor signs legislatiaon to limit incarcerations

By Anna Liz Nichols
Associated Press/Report for America

LANSING(AP) — Legislation that allows for alternatives to jail and aims to limit recidivism in Michigan were among the dozens of new laws Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed this week.

Among the measures were 20 based on the recommendations of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration formed in 2019. The task force heard testimony from hundreds of people and reviewed 10 years of statewide arrest and court data after the state’s incarcerated population nearly tripled over four decades.

The “Smart Justice” package eliminates mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases such as a person's first time failing to appear in court. Law enforcement also will be allowed to use discretion to issue a citation and release a suspect from custody for most misdemeanors.

Bill sponsor Sen. Sylvia Santana has been vocal about the changes saying the state can stop wasting funds and resources when there are better alternatives.

“The bills signed into law by the governor today marks the culmination of 18 months of bipartisan work and while I believe we will see safer communities and less recidivism as a result of these reforms, there is still much work ahead,” the Detroit Democrat said in a news release. “We need to continue our commitment to making necessary changes so that families who have lost a loved one to a system that overly, and inconsistently, prosecutes people of color and the poor can get the justice they deserve.”