Michigan Law Revision Commission Receives Report on State’s Felony Sentencing System

Michigan Law Review Commission

The Michigan Law Revision Commission (MLRC) today received a report from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center summarizing the findings of a study that could lead to improvements in the state’s sentencing guidelines and savings to Michigan taxpayers.

The CSG Justice Center, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, identified areas in which the state could improve its felony sentencing system while reducing recidivism and cutting costs. The organization’s findings are part of a data-driven approach to increase public safety, reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies that can decrease crime and recidivism.

“This report is a significant step toward establishing criminal justice policies that maximize our state’s public safety and reduce costs,” said Richard McLellan, chairman of the MLRC. “The commission intends to carefully review these findings and seriously consider feedback from the public on these issues, as well.”

In June 2013, a collection of state officials, including Gov. Rick Snyder, legislative leaders from both parties, Chief Justice Robert Young and others, requested the CSG Justice Center’s technical assistance in studying the state’s felony sentencing system. The MLRC was charged by the legislature to lead this effort in partnership with the CSG Justice Center. Over the past 11 months, the MLRC has convened five previous public meetings to receive and comment on the CSG Justice Center’s findings throughout the project.

After analyzing more than 7 million records and speaking with hundreds of stakeholders across the state, the CSG Justice Center concludes in its final report that:

  • Despite measurable progress in specific areas, including a reduced prison population, high criminal justice costs and crime persist in Michigan.
  • Michigan’s sentencing system can be more consistent and predictable. The felony guidelines involve a great deal of precision in scoring each individual case, but the guidelines can be more predictable and consistent regarding the types of sanctions imposed, and the amount of time served.
  • Michigan’s sentencing system can improve public safety and lower costs to taxpayers by guiding probation supervision resources and practices to hold people accountable and reduce recidivism.
  • Existing funding of programs designed to reduce recidivism can be targeted to achieve a greater impact on public safety.
  • Michigan can improve its monitoring of key sentencing and public safety outcomes by monitoring the impacts of changes to the guidelines in the future and collecting more comprehensive data regarding the true extent of crime across the state and the collection of restitution payments.

“This has been a inter-branch endeavor from the start,” said state Representative Joe Haveman, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and instrumental in obtaining the funding to activate the study. “Our state is committed to developing strategies that are based in data and consensus, and this collaboration with the CSG Justice Center has reflected that dedication throughout this process.”

The MLRC will take the next weeks to review the report and allow the public the same opportunity. The commission will host a meeting on June 23 in Lansing to receive feedback from the public, and the CSG Justice Center will lead discussions around specific policy options for the public to consider.

“Michigan joins 17 other states who have taken a Justice Reinvestment approach in an effort to improve their criminal justice systems,” said Denise E. O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. “This is part of a new era in which states are relying on data to make informed decisions and enact policy reforms that ultimately make their communities safer.”

“Michigan has made much progress over the past decade but this report identifies several additional areas for improvement,” said Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project.  “Policy makers now have the data they need to pinpoint solutions and build consensus around a new set of policies that will deliver more public safety for the millions of dollars the state spends on corrections.”

To learn more about the justice reinvestment and sentencing project in Michigan, please visit csgjusticecenter.org/jr/mi/.

The CSG Justice Center’s work in justice reinvestment is done in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. These efforts have provided similar data-driven analyses and policy options to leaders in 17 other states.

About The Michigan Law Revision Commission

The Michigan Law Revision Commission is a bipartisan group of legislators and public members that has been actively engaged in the review of Michigan laws since 1965. The MLRC examines Michigan statutes to discover defects in the law and recommend needed reforms, including changes in the law necessary to bring the State’s laws current with modern conditions.