Bring Back Good Time in Michigan's Prisons (HB 5666)
Twice in April Michigan’s Good Time Bill, HB 5666, was not to voted on by legislators as expected. The Good Time Bill that was originally introduced in the House at the end of February and was scheduled to vote April 10th and was rescheduled for April 17th, legislators still have not voted on the matter and we cannot wait another election cycle for Good Time to be reintroduced again.
Michigan is suffering from a clear problem and its hitting us hard. Michigan state keeps inmates much longer in comparison to other states. These extra years of men and women staying in prison is socially and economically expensive, driving up prison costs by millions and millions of dollars a year with incarceration consuming over a quarter of the state’s general fund. Not only is this problem costly economically on a state level but costly on a community level as African American families are heavily effected with over 44% of the states entire prison population being made of of non-white men. That’s almost half! Its more than disappointing, its disgusting to see the lack of the representatives’ interest in the demands of the people on correcting this gross issue.
This Initiative petition requires at least 252,523 valid signatures by May 30th in order for the proposed legislation, the Good Time Bill, to override the legislators voting process. After the successful collection of signatures the bill must be put for a vote by legislators to be either adopted or rejected within 40 days. If the proposed bill is not immediately adopted and is rejected by legislators then it is given another opportunity to become a law by moving forward to proposed to the people in the state of Michigan’s next general election which would be November 6, 2018. This is our opportunity to bring Good Time back in the State’s prisons so that rehabilitated prisoners can rejoin society to support their families and communities.
Whether the bill is adopted by legislators or voted into law in a general election, it is important that we give this bill a chance to become a law by showing our overwhelming support for the Good Time Bill. There are more than 40,000 men and women incarcerated in the State of Michigan whose sentences deserve to be reassessed according to the magnitude of their good behavior during their incarceration. Michigan is one of the very few states currently that don’t incorporate Good Time policies to allow a rehabilitated inmate to be released after effectively serving a portion of their sentence, this is a policy that is even instituted at a Federal Level. There is absolutely no reason why a person should lose more of their life just because of their misfortune of being incarcerated in Michigan.
Judge revives ballot initiative seeking to reinstate 'good time' prison credits
A federal judge has ruled the state of Michigan cannot exclude from the November ballot a proposed initiative by a civil rights organization seeking to restore “good time” credits so prisoners can get early release for good behavior.
Detroit U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman ruled Thursday that the state could not keep SawariMedia’s petition off this year's ballot based on the group's missing the signature threshold. Leitman ordered the state to select its “own adjustments” to reduce the burden on ballot access because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is not yet clear what changes Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office will make to accommodate SawariMedia’s ballot initiative. The state is reviewing the ruling, said Jake Rollow, a spokesman for Benson's office.
On May 27, the deadline for submission SawariMedia was more than 100,000 signatures short of the required 347,047 valid signatures required. The group asked the federal court for relief from the requirement in light of the state’s far-reaching stay-at-home order meant to prevent against COVID-19 spread.
Leitman granted the request, ruling restrictions on signature gathering in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic have made it nearly impossible to collect the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.
“Plaintiffs should be commended for putting the public health of Michiganders above their own self-interest and desire to collect the required number of signatures, not denigrated for making that conscientious choice,” Leitman wrote.
More:Judge revives ballot initiative seeking to reinstate 'good time' prison credits
The state’s current “Truth in Sentencing” law requires that individuals sentenced to a range of years serve nothing less than the minimum regardless of “good time” credits earned in jail. Good time credits were eliminated and “Truth in Sentencing” took its place by a vote of the people in 1998.
The ballot initiative seeks to reverse state law again and would enact instead the Michigan Prisoner Rehabilitation Credit Act, restoring “good time” credits for good behavior in the state prison system.
Leitman referenced several times in his Thursday decision the case of Eric Esshaki, a Republican candidate for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District recently granted extra time to collect signatures as well as a lower bar for the number of signatures gathered. Esshaki had sued the state, arguing the signature-gathering requirements during the coronavirus pandemic were an unconstitutional burden.
Like Esshaki, SawariMedia “faced a daunting signature requirement with a firm deadline in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Leitman wrote.
SawariMedia had roughly 13 days to collect signatures before the stay-at-home order was put in place. Afterward, the group said it attempted to mail petitions to supporters but the effort was both cost-prohibitive and inefficient.
The inability to collect signatures was not solely due to the pandemic, but the stay-at-home orders preventing signature gathering, Leitman wrote.
The state failed to show "that their enforcement of the signature requirement and filing deadline are narrowly tailored to the present circumstances," Leitman said. And, because of that, "those requirements cannot survive a strict scrutiny analysis as applied to plaintiffs."
View CommentsSours: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/06/12/judge-revives-michigan-ballot-plan-reinstate-good-time-prison-credits/3178619001/
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“Good Time Makes Good Sense” initiative could reduce Michigan’s lengthy prison sentences
However, Good Time still exists in Michigan in different forms. Sentences served in Michigan jails get automatic Good Time credit. People serving time in a county jail receive one day of credit for every four served. Michigan also offers Good Time to individuals on parole/probation. If the first half of parole is completed without incident, the second half is automatically discharged.
“Right now in our own state we are doing 50 percent (Good Time credit) for probation and parole, and we are doing 20 percent or 25 percent in our county facilities. So Good Time isn’t something crazy that hasn’t happened before,” LeRolland-Wagner said.
MJA says many try to argue against implementing Good Time credit by bringing up victim’s rights. However, 61 percent of crime victims support shorter prison sentences and more spending on prevention and rehabilitation, according to a study by the Alliance for Safety and Justice.
“Everyone claims to be concerned about victim’s rights. The truth of the matter is… once sentencing has occurred, the only right a victim has is to receive a written letter of notification when an offender is scheduled for a parole hearing,” LeRolland-Wagner said. “They use this victim argument but don't actually put the weight and care to actually help victims to heal and move forward.”
All previous bill iterations proposing Good Time credits have died in the chamber, without even making it to a vote on the Senate/House floor. Griffin thinks this is the case because of the culture surrounding criminal justice.
“We haven't changed the culture for how we manage people who live in poverty. Crime isn’t driven by a criminal mind, most of the crime that we see in our society is poverty driven. I think that the narrative is so opposed to crime because we see it from a criminality perspective and not from a poverty perspective,” Griffin said.
Poverty isn’t the only factor leading to incarceration. According to LeRolland-Wagner, many individuals who are currently incarcerated struggle with addiction or mental illness. Today, there are a number of services to help people dealing with addiction or mental illness that weren’t available a few decades ago. LeRolland-Wagner says some crimes that happened in the 80's, 90’s or early 2000’s might not have led to incarceration if it had been committed today.
“We are holding people accountable for something, for up to 30 years, when really all they needed was a year in a treatment facility to help address their underlying mental health or substance abuse issues,” LeRolland-Wagner said. “They could be in society right now, home with their family.”
Another barrier to Good Time is the business-like nature of the prison system. The State Department of Corrections is the largest state-run business in Michigan. It employs nearly 12,000 people and has 29 facilities in the state.
These facilities are located in rural communities and provide a primary source of revenue.
Inside these facilities, Griffin says inmates provide sources of cheap labor for outside corporations.
“You name it, the Department of Corrections has inmates making materials that are used by companies in society,” Griffin said.
You can support the “Good Time Makes Good Sense” Initiative by signing Michigan Justice Advocacy’s petition at this link.
Contact your State Representative and Senator to let them know your thoughts on this initiative.
Truth in Sentencing Information
Truth in Sentencing is a 1998 state law which eliminates disciplinary credits, good time and corrections centers for certain offenders and requires offenders to serve the entire minimum sentence in prison prior to being considered for parole. It replaces disciplinary credits with "disciplinary time" which is days accumulated for incurring Class 1 misconducts while in prison. Disciplinary time days are not to be formally added to the minimum sentence, but the Parole Board must consider the amount of time each prisoner has accumulated when it considers parole. The law commonly referred to as Truth in Sentencing, applies to assaultive crimes committed on or after Dec. 15, 1998, and all other crimes committed on or after Dec. 15, 2000. An offender that committed their offense after those dates cannot receive credits or another form of education to the minimum sentence imposed by the court. The MDOC cannot parole an offender prior to the completion of the minimum sentence.
There have been no changes with the Truth in Sentencing law and currently, there has been no discussion of changing it. Citizens with an interest in the law should discuss the subject with their legislator.
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