This week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of bills that prioritizes alternatives to jail, expands officer discretion to issue appearance tickets rather than make arrests, and reshapes penalties for traffic offenses. The bills aim to shift individuals away from jail through expanding the use of jail alternatives, unless they pose a threat to public safety. The bills received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
The reforms are based on policy recommendations from the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, led by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Chief Justice Bridget McCormack. The Task Force found that low-level infractions, like driving on a suspended license, violations of probation, and other misdemeanors, were exhausting public safety resources and impacting hundreds of thousands of people each year. Jail populations have tripled in less than 40 years, growing particularly fast in rural communities, and Michigan law provided little to no guidance on when jail alternatives should be the preferred or presumed intervention. Additional recommendations stemming from the Task Force report will be introduced and taken up for consideration during the 2021-2022 legislative session.
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