By Tom Travis
In the last 40 years, Michigan’s prison population has ballooned 71 percent, with State expenditures on prisons and the incarcerated also jumping from $330 million to $2.4 billion — an average of $44,000 per prisoner per year.
These are among facts that the The Michigan Justice Advocacy (MJA) organization hopes to highlight in a Saturday, Oct. 9 event to draw support and awareness to Michigan Senate Bill 649. The bill aims to change the so-called “Good Time” policy for Michigan’s incarcerated population.
The event will run for 1 to 4 p.m. at the Higher Quality of Life Church, 5601 N. Saginaw St.
Saturday’s event will include a bounce house, kids’ activities, vendors and food. Local community organizations will be on hand including: addiction services, health services, Flint Soup kitchen, and church groups.
The “Good Time” policy is a system of credits available for incarcerated citizens who demonstrate they are turning their lives around and exhibit behavioral change in measurable ways. The bill provides an incentive for those who understand the mistakes they have made in the past and endeavor to improve themselves thus exhibiting the fact that they are being rehabilitated, according to a MJA website.
The MJA website goes on to promote “Rehabilitation rather than simply punishment, Lower rates of recidivism equals safer citizens upon inevitable release and a $4 billion in potential savings from the Department of Corrections budget over the next five years.
In 1978, the Good Time policy was removed through a ballot initiative, Michigan Justice Advocacy Campaign Director Rich Griffin explained in an interview in a downtown coffee shop Friday.
History of “Good Time” policy
Since the “Good Time” policy was removed 40 years ago, the Michigan prison population has ballooned by 71 per cent and the State is now spending an excess of $2 billion more on the incarcerated, Griffin said. In 1978 Michigan was spending $330 million; now Michigan is spending $2.4 billion on prisons and the incarcerated, according to Griffin.
“3.9% of our State budget goes to corrections , with the majority of that spending going to operating the 29 facilities throughout the state. (The National Average is only 2.5% of State Budgets). Over 25 per cent of the more than 44K state employees work for the MI Dept. of Corrections.
The average cost of custody per incarcerated citizen is approximately $44k and is increasing by approximately $500/year. As MI tax payers, we are projected to spend almost $216 million dollars updating and maintaining these facilities over the next 5 years.” according to the Michigan Justice “Good Time” initiative website.
How Michigan ranks in comparison to other States
The same website continued, “Michigan is one of only six states with no policy for Good Time or Earned Time Credits and as such is out of step with the rest of the country. 31 States and the Federal Government provide a way for incarcerated citizens to earn some amount sentence reduction based on their behavior. Meaning two-thirds of the country recognize and incentivize positive steps toward rehabilitation.”
“In 1998, to obtain federal Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth in Sentencing (VOI/TIS) grants which required more imprisonment for serious offenses, the state enacted a harsher “truth in sentencing” law than was required to qualify for the federal funding.”
The state set the time-served requirement before eligibility for parole consideration to 100 per cent of the minimum sentence (instead of 85 per cent) and applied it to all sentences (instead of just sentences for violence). Subsequently, Michigan received nearly $110 million in VOI/TIS grants for prison 18 The Sentencing Project expansion.
“The state eliminated community residential programs that had transitioned low-risk individuals to community corrections placements before parole eligibility.
It replaced sentencing guidelines established by the judiciary with more restrictive legislative ones that mandated sentence lengths within narrow grid ranges for either (1) presumptive probation or jail, (2) choice of sanction type within the range, or (3) presumptive prison,” according to the MJA website.
Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin (D-95) of the Washtenaw County area introduced Senate Bill 649 in September; it is now in the Judiciary Committee. In 2019 a group of Michigan incarcerated citizens began writing the Michigan Prisoner Rehabilitation Credit Act (MPRCA).
These incarcerated citizens with the help of family members reached out to every State legislator and activists. In January 2020 the petition language was approved for printing. In March 2020, with the outbreak of COVID-19, and an Executive Order banning in-person gatherings and events, the momentum of getting petition signatures was “stifled,” according to the MJA website.
Sign the petition
In Fall 2020 an injunction was filed and the State approved for the petition signatures to be gathered online. In September 2020 the MJA was formed. Those interested in signing the petition can go to this link.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.