Bipartisan reforms are focused on smarter justice, safer communities

Published 10:19 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

Half of our prison population is made up of parole and probation violators, and the national average is 30 percent. Simply stated, we spend too much time and resources on putting people behind bars and not enough on ensuring prisoners are rehabilitated and prepared for life after prison.

Michigan’s criminal justice system needs modernizing. It’s time for us to take action with smarter justice reforms that help break the cycle of incarceration and ensure that the safety of the public is always the top priority.

That is why I recently led the effort to introduce a bipartisan legislative package to reform, re-establish and rebuild a criminal justice system focused on lowering recidivism and keeping Michigan safe.

Many components of the package are designed to reduce recidivism, including updating the Swift and Sure probation sanctioning program and enacting better ways to track and evaluate recidivism data.

Of the 42,000 individuals currently incarcerated in our prison system, roughly 38,000 will eventually be returning to our communities.

This comprehensive criminal justice reform package will help improve the cost-effectiveness of the system and reinvest in how we treat prisoners so they can eventually be successfully reintroduced back into society.

With a smarter, data-driven approach, Michigan can better measure what works best to efficiently and effectively rehabilitate prisoners. Michigan now has several specialty courts, such as drug courts and sobriety courts, which help reduce costs and achieve better outcomes for everyone. This effort for restorative justice and better treatment of prisoners by focusing on specific issues reduces recidivism and helps offenders to return to a normal life.

Other issues addressed in the bill package include expediting medical commutation hearings; allowing judges to shorten a probation term as a result of good behavior; utilizing a consent calendar for juveniles; and providing a tax credit for employing a probationer or parolee.

Our goal is to reduce the cost of our criminal justice system while also helping break the cycle of crime. Refocusing our system on rehabilitation and reform of prisoners is good for public safety and a smarter use of taxpayer dollars.


Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents Southwest Michigan.