Justice Reforms in 2014 Lame Duck Session
- School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Child Welfare Crossover
- Mental Health
- Juvenile Defense
- Juvenile Competency
- In-Home Care Incentive
- PREA, Isolation, Restraint
- Youth in Adult System
- Juvenile Life Without Parole
- Youth Reentry
Criminal Sentencing Guidelines
Possibly the most contentious of all the justice-related bills this session were the so-called Council of State Government (CSG) bills proposed by Rep. Haveman. Named for the national group invited by state lawmakers to study Michigan’s sentencing policies, this package of bills reflected top policy recommendations from the year-long analysis and work with the Michigan Law Revision Commission.
- HB 5928 creates a 17-member Criminal Justice Policy Commission to research effectiveness of sentencing guidelines and develop policy modifications. The Commission is required to report on jail and prison impact related to any proposed modifications.
- HB 5929 renames the MDOC Office of Community Alternatives to the Office of Community Corrections and requires the local Community Corrections Boards to use evidence-based practices.
House Bills 5930 and 5931 failed to muster enough votes and died on the Senate floor in the last hours of the 2014 session.
- HB 5930 would have expanded the Swift and Secure Sanctions Act to allow judges to reduce or terminate a person’s probation early; created a specific funding source for Swift and Secure; and allowed courts to receive grants to accept Swift and Secure participants from other jurisdiction.
- HB 5931 would have created a presumption of parole at the judicially-imposed minimum sentence for certain offenders who are not considered a “menace to society”.
HB 4186 allows a person convicted of not more than one felony and not more than two misdemeanors to petition the convicting court to set aside the felony. An individual who was convicted of not more than two misdemeanors will be allowed to petition the court to set aside one or both of those convictions.
Employment Certification for Returning Citizens
Governor Rick Snyder signed 3 bills into law that will assist the formerly incarcerated to find jobs after they are released. The law requires the Michigan Department of Corrections to (MDOC) provide returning citizens with a certificate of employability within 30 days of being released, if certain conditions are met.
- PA 359 of 2014 requires the MDOC to provide a former prisoner with a certificate of employability if he/she meets certain requirements.
- PA 360 of 2014 provides protections for companies from negligence suits if they hire a formerly incarcerated person who possesses an employability certificate.
- PA 361 of 2014 requires that state licensing boards and state-regulated agencies take the ex-prisoner employability certificates into consideration when making decisions to issue professional/occupational licenses.
Medicaid Suspension for Inmates While in Prison
SB 1011 requires the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to suspend rather than terminate an inmate’s Medicaid plan while he/she is in prison. MDCH would be required to redetermine an individual’s Medicaid eligibility upon notification of his/her release from prison.
Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA)
Several House Bills to amend the current HYTA policies gained some traction this session and will be considered again in the new year.
- HB 4206 (passed House; referred to full Senate for vote) would expand eligibility of HYTA as a sentencing option to individuals who commit a qualifying offense before her/his 24th birthday (currently on 17-20 year olds are eligible for HYTA. HB 4206 would also allow court to require HYTA youth to maintain employment, enrollment in school or electronic monitoring, and requires prosecutors’ permission to assign HYTA status to individuals aged 21-23.
- HB 5582 (passed House; referred to full Senate for vote) would eliminate of the option for prison for HYTA youth. Currently, HYTA youth can be sentenced to probation, jail, or prison or some combination of the three.
- HB 5585 (passed House; referred to full Senate for vote) would require the court to revoke HYTA status if the individual commits a specific offense. Currently, the court maintains complete discretion of when to revoke HYTA status.
A four bill package was introduced into the Senate Education Committee the last days of the winter session: SB 1151 through 1154. These reforms aim to provide a consistent definition of student truancy and chronic absenteeism, prohibit the suspension/expulsion of students solely for being truant, authorizes local school officials to implement graduated interventions to address truancy, and amend the Revise School Code to require a school board’s annual report regarding expulsions to include data about suspensions, truancy, chronic absenteeism, and disciplinary absence.
The truancy bills will not be voted on until 2015, as would any legislation addressing school zero tolerance policies.