MacDonald bill part of bipartisan jail reforms sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature has finalized legislation sponsored by Sen. Michael D. MacDonald as part of bipartisan reforms to implement several key findings of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.

The task force was charged with addressing Michigan’s jail population, which has tripled in just 35 years. Its report was released in January and found that county jails are high-traffic institutions, affecting hundreds of thousands more Michiganders each year than state prisons.

Michigan’s jail growth was driven equally by incarceration of pretrial defendants and those serving a sentence post-conviction. While taxpayers spend nearly half a billion dollars annually on jails, alternatives to jail are under-utilized across the state, and Michigan law provides little to no guidance on when alternatives should be the preferred or presumed intervention.

“These reforms are about keeping our communities safe, ending the cycle of crime and freeing up valuable state and local resources,” said MacDonald, R-Macomb Township. “By focusing our probation system on helping offenders become productive members of society instead of feeding people back into jail for technical mistakes, we can help reduce crime and save taxpayer dollars.”

Senate Bill 1050 would reduce probation terms, tailor probation conditions to address risks and needs and cap jail sanctions for technical probation violations.

The other five Senate bills are sponsored by Sens. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit; Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor; Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit; and Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville.

SBs 1046-1049 and 1051 address decision points in the justice system that contribute to jail admissions and length of stay, from arrest through sentencing and probation supervision. The measures would expand officer discretion to issue appearance tickets as an alternative to arrest, reduce the use of arrest warrants to enforce payment of debts, create presumptions against jail sentences for individuals who pose no danger to the community, and establish evidence-based incentives and sanctions for those on community supervision.

The task force policy recommendations were informed by over a dozen stakeholder roundtables, testimony from hundreds of people across the state, 10 years of statewide arrest and court data and three years of individual-level data from a large and diverse sample of county jails.

SBs 1046-1051 have been sent to the governor to be signed.