Senate OKs criminal justice reforms

Jonathan Oosting Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – The Michigan Senate approved Thursday a 22-bill package designed to stop “the revolving door” of the state’s criminal justice system, primarily by reforming probation and procedure policies.

The bipartisan legislation would limit incarceration to a maximum of 30 days for probationers who committe technical violations and allow courts to reduce probation length for good behavior.

Other bills in the package would ensure 18- to 22-year-old prisoners are housed separately from adults, expedite commutation hearings for medically frail prisoners and create a new supervised sanctions program for parolees.

An existing Swift and Sure probation sanctions program would be expanded and treated as a special court for potential implementation around the state.

The program, which targets high-risk offenders with probation violation failures, helped reduce recidivism rates, according to an initial evaluation by university researchers.

Sponsoring Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, said 50 percent of Michigan prisoners are parole or probation violators, a figure he hopes to reduce toward the national average of 30 percent.

“If we see a 20 percent reduction … we’ll see significant decreases in crime, significant decreases in costs to society, victimization goes down significantly, and at the end of the day an additional benefit is savings in general fund dollars,” he said.

The package does not include criminal justice reforms approved this session by the House but not yet considered by the Senate, including “presumptive parole” that would allow the release of more nonviolent offenders after they have served their minimum mandatory sentences.

The Michigan House and Senate on Thursday afternoon adjourned for the summer. Legislators are expected to return to Lansing for three weeks of session in early September.