ACLU Applauds State Lawmakers for Proposed Sentencing Reform Legislation

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
September 18, 2019 2:00 pm

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LANSING, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds state lawmakers for introducing sentencing reform legislation this week. Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, will be introducing a bill package this week which will overhaul mandatory sentencing laws that trigger additional prison time. The proposed legislation will return to judges the power to make sentencing decisions, restrict increased sentences to those who have previous felony convictions within the last 10-years, and limit additional time to cases where a person has been punished repeatedly for similar actions.

“We are thrilled the legislature is making criminal justice reform a priority by overhauling laws that force judges to hand down longer sentences even when they believe the punishment does not fit the crime,” said ACLU Policy Counsel Kimberly Buddin. “Ending mandatory sentencing laws will also reduce the number of people needlessly locked up when they should be home with their families leading productive lives.”

The proposed legislation is in response to the passage of mandatory sentencing laws that have drastically increased the time a person spends behind bars. A recent study of incarceration in Michigan shows that the average minimum sentence is 10 years, a 32 percent increase from 2006 to 2016.

“Our tough on crime sentencing laws have resulted in keeping people in prison longer though research shows that longer sentences do not make our communities safer,” said Sen. Curt VanderWall. “These laws waste taxpayer money, as it costs $36,000 a year to house a person in prison when those dollars could be better spent on rehabilitating people and setting them up for success.”

Mandatory sentences don’t allow judges to consider the facts of the case or individual circumstances. They also do not allow judges to order alternatives to incarceration, including diversion programs, mental health and drug rehabilitation, probation and parole.

“Mandatory sentences rob people of the opportunity to seek rehabilitation,” said Sen. Jeff Irwin. “Our goal should be to ensure that people return with the skills needed to be successful, not to lock people up as long as possible. It’s long overdue for Michigan to focus on rehabilitation and not mass incarceration.”

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