July, 2020 - Safe & Just Michigan

Clean Slate Reaches Senate floor

The Clean Slate legislative package is awaiting action on the Senate floor after clearing a key Senate committee late last month.

Clean Slate — a set of seven bills that would significantly expand access to expungements by increasing the number of offenses eligible for set asides, allowing people to expunge more offenses from their record and automating the expungement process in many cases — gained the approval of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on June 24. Prior to that, it had been the subject of four committee hearings earlier that month.

Several people offered testimony in favor of expungement expansion, representing viewpoints from across the political spectrum. They included Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, representatives from the ACLU of Michigan and Americans for Tax Prosperity, and Safe & Just Michigan’s Executive Director John S. Cooper. Safe & Just Michigan Board Member Jennifer Cobbina, who is also a Michigan State University associate professor of criminology, also spoke in favor of Clean Slate during a hearing.

The Legislature is currently meeting on a reduced schedule because of the summer in-district work period. It’s not certain when Clean Slate may be taken up again, but it’s hoped that the package will clear the legislative process and be signed into law before the end of the year.

We will be closely following this legislation as it continues to make its way through the legislative process and will keep you up-to-date with the latest, so be sure to stay in touch with our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

First Jails Task Force Bills Introduced

The recommendations of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration have started the process of being transformed into legislation, and the first of those bills have been introduced to the Legislature.

Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders every single year spend time in our jails for charges from driving with a suspended license to non-serious misdemeanors. Prison sentences are longer, but the collateral consequences are often equally severe for people regardless of if they spent time in jail or in prison.

Several months ago, the  Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration issued 18 recommendations to improve the state’s system of county jails and to address the problem of Michigan’s skyrocketing jail population growth. Starting July 21, the first wave of legislation inspired by the recommendations will officially start to move through the legislative process. The legislation is supported by everyone from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack to Senate Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).

What Bills Are Included and What Are The Bills About?

The first wave of legislation to implement those recommendations has three goals:

1. Eliminating most driver’s license suspensions (not related to public safety): HB 5846, HB 5847, HB 5848, HB 5849, HB 5850, HB 5851, HB 5852
2. Eliminating jail mandatory minimums: HB 5854, HB 5855, HB 5856, HB 5857, HB 5844
3. Removing incarceration in jail as an option for some traffic misdemeanor charges (where nobody was harmed or put at risk of harm) HB 5853

Why These Bills Matter

A large number of the underlying crimes in our state happen because of low-level misdemeanor charges. One of the most shocking findings from the task force research was that one of our largest drivers of jail incarceration in Michigan was driver license suspensions unrelated to public safety.

Imagine you were ticketed but were unable to pay. Months later, as a result of this failure to pay, your driver’s license was suspended, and you had to make the decision between driving to work without a license or staying home and getting fired. Like most people, you chose to go to work. Subsequently, you were pulled over and arrested for driving without a license. Stories like this play out across our state daily as hundreds of thousands of people fall into debt traps.

Another common driver of jail incarceration is the arrest of people for non-serious misdemeanors in Michigan. Too often, statutes enforce mandatory minimums on judges for those crimes. If it is a non-serious misdemeanor, and a judge thinks that a person’s release poses no public safety risk, why would we insist on incarceration at a cost to the taxpayer?

If we can substantially reduce the number of unnecessary incarcerations in our state, why wouldn’t we immediately endeavor to do so? All of us at Safe & Just Michigan enthusiastically support action on this first wave of legislation to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.

Join Us To Learn About The Business Case For Criminal Justice Reform

On July 29 at noon, Safe & Just Michigan, along with co-sponsor Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, will host a webinar on the business case for supporting criminal justice reforms including Clean Slate, the proposals of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration and other reforms.

Safe & Just Michigan Executive Director John S. Cooper will moderate a discussion with panelists Jahaun McKinley, Senior Lean Manufacturing Manager for Cascade Industries; Jeffrey Korzenik, Chief Investment Strategist for Fifth Third Bank; Jon Meyer, Assistant Production Manager for Abcor Industries; and Tammy Britton, Workforce Development Project Manager for Talent 2025.

To join us, please go to http://bit.ly/CRJBusiness to register and get the Zoom link.

Visit our website at www.safeandjustmi.org. If you would like to join Safe & Just Michigan’s efforts, please contact us at
 info@safeandjustmi.org or sign up for our electronic communications at bit.ly/sjmsignup.