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Michigan Senate rolls out large prison and parole reform package

Todd Ehlers
Flickr - creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Michigan Senators are making a big push for prison and parole reform this year. Over 20 of the 52 bills introduced during session last week were about criminal justice changes.

Several of the bills focus on probation and parole violations. They would change penalties for probationers that commit technical probation violation and discontinue services to parole absconders.

Republican Sen. Rick Jones is the main sponsor of a couple of the bills and a former sheriff. He said they have been working on the package for a while. “The main reason is to make it a better system,” he said. “We want people put out that do not recidivate that find jobs and return as a citizen. And we want to save the state a lot of tax dollars.”

One of the bills Sen. Jones is spearheading would allow for inmates to earn goodtime in prison if they complete judge-assigned programs.

“We hope that we can transfer this to prisons and get people to be more active with learning a trade, getting a high school diploma, taking the classes such as AA, drug abuse, anger management, that the judge orders,” he said.

Jones says anytime you can give an inmate time off their sentence for good behavior is a good thing. Right now, inmates in jail can get good time, but not inmates in prison.

While most of the bills were introduced by Republicans, Democratic Senators Rebekah Warren and Bert Johnson also introduced some bills.

“We actually are trying to rehabilitate people and get them ready to be productive citizens again,” she said. “So some of it is work we’ve done for a long time – things that we know we need to change, and it’s a place where good policy and financial savings can come together.”

Sen. Warren is the main sponsor of a bill that would give a portion of the crime victims fund to child assessment centers.

A bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of children and a bill to establish a jail bed savings program were also introduced. But they are not a part of the larger bill package.

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