LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bipartisan package of criminal justice reform bills on Monday, giving people who commit minor offenses an opportunity to avoid jail.
The bills are based on recommendations by the Michigan Joint Task Force on jail and pretrial incarcerations. The task force took a deep dive by conducting a year-long study of jails and receiving public input on how to find alternatives to jail for certain misdemeanors.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers overwhelmingly support the changes.
“Over the last two years, we’ve worked with leaders on both sides of the aisle to make Michigan a national leader on criminal justice reform,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist co-led the task force.
“For the last generation, we’ve seen our jail population skyrocket while crime go down over last 30 years,” Gilchrist told News 8.
Among the new laws, drivers who had their licenses suspended for violations — not related to dangerous driving — will no longer end up behind bars.
“People who were locked up for license suspensions when the licenses were taken away for things that had nothing to do with how they drove. These packages of bills that the governor signed into law today are really first steps toward reforming that system and ending that vicious cycle,” Gilchrist said.
Gilchrist added that the new set of bills is a game changer.
“To stop people from going to jail in the first place and to be able to give people a chance to automatically clear their records like no other state has is really quite extraordinary and it speaks to the power of the commitment of getting things done for people — the power of having a real bipartisan consensus that we can work on,” Gilchrist said.
The cost of putting people behind bars also influenced the task force’s findings.
“Working together on this important topic is a perfect example of putting people before politics,” former Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield said. “We all want a stronger, safer and more free country. That requires smart reforms like these to hold people accountable without setting them up to fail.”