LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Local crime survivors shared testimonies on Tuesday at a hearing regarding a series of bills proposed as part of the Safer Michigan Act.

While giving voice to themselves and other survivors of crime, they’re advocating for the rights of people who are convicted of such crimes.

“Our criminal justice system must include the voices and needs of survivors like me if we want to truly make Michigan safer,” said Priscilla Bordayo, Michigan state manager for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice and a sexual assault survivor.

House Bills 4450-4453, with bipartisan support, would establish incentives for eligible inmates to partake in job and educational training.

The incentives would be in the form productivity credits, to apply toward potential early release.

Productivity credits for inmates have been proven to help people leaving prison in the workforce, as well as reducing recidivism, saving tax dollars and boosting public safety, according to the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ).

“HB 4450-53 have been drafted with survivors in mind and our needs considered,” Bordayo continued.

Eight in 10 Michigan crime victims support reducing prison sentences; three of four rehabilitation, as well as drug and mental health treatment, are more effective at preventing crime than longer prison sentences, according to data from ASJ.

“It does not make us any safer to release people into our communities with little job and educational and life skills–unprepared to make ends meet and very likely to go back into a life of crime,” said Qiana Wimbley, Detroit gun violence survivor and a member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. 

“Fundamentally, HB 4450-53 establishes a proven anti-crime approach. I need to feel safe in my community. I need to feel safe in my home,” Wimbley said.

ASJ says that the federal justice system and more than 30 states currently offer such incentives for people in prison, and that those systems have seen lower rates of recidivism.

The 2021 ASJ-commissioned report found that states including Minnesota and Ohio have seen as much as a 20% drop in recidivism among people who participated in a college degree program during their prison sentence.

“From the start, victims will be notified about whether defendants are eligible, and the terms of their sentences, whether they complete rehabilitation programs or not,” Bordayo said. “Those who are eligible will have served their time, be held accountable, and less likely to reoffend. Redemption and rehabilitation are the foundation of safety.”