Michigan lawmakers are being asked to pass laws that would reduce the flow of citizens into the jail system for non-criminal offenses.
Backers of the reforms claim they are not getting soft on crime but want to make sure only the bad guys end up in jail.
There were bi-partisan smiles as the two Republican legislative leaders accepted a 44-page report from lieutenant governor Garlin Gilchrist and Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack on how to save money by putting fewer persons in jail.
“It is probably the case that if some of these recommendations are executed fewer people will go to jail for technical driving offenses and offenses like that,” said Chief Justice McCormack.
Here are some of the proposals.
(1) No Jail Time-Not Paying Fines
(2) No Arrests-Failure to Appear in Court on a first time offense
(3) Keep Mentally Ill Out of Jail
(4) Less Jail Time-Misdemeanors
The report notes that as crime rates have gone down in Michigan, the jail population has tripled.
But if you send fewer folks to jail does that mean the state is getting soft on crime?
Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield explains, “When we look at how we prosecuted and how many people we had in the system in 1979 compared to today, with doubling it, we ought to be ashamed and have not done enough for the persons who are in the system. this is not about being soft on crime, and its not about being tough on crime. It’s being smart on crime and giving people the tools they need to be successful.”
In rural jails 34% of the inmates have mental health issues but moving them into mental health facilities is costly.
So how much will taxpayers pay to make the transition?
The lieutenant. governor says he doesn’t know.
Skubick: “So you drafted these recommendations without a price tag?”
Gilchrist: “We did not do a price tag. That’s up to the lawmakers to determine that level.”
Skubick: “Isn’t that critical to the outcome? Should you give some guidance on the cost?”
Gilchrist: “This is why we continue to be engaged.”
We’ll see if they can turn today’s smiles into votes to reform the jail system.