ABOUT BIPARTISAN SMART JUSTICE REFORM
ABOUT THE CURRENT BIPARTISAN SMART JUSTICE REFORM
- Protect Individual’s Constitutional Rights: The Constitution provides that each of us is innocent until proven guilty, but thousands of Michiganders each year lose their freedom– and are held in jail without a trial or conviction – over minor infractions like traffic violations.
- Research tells us that Black residents are up to 6 times more likely to be in county jail than white residents, and Black people receive higher bail amounts than white defendants facing similar charges.
- One of the most common reasons people are jailed in Michigan is for driving on a suspended license, often the consequence of unpaid tickets.
People across the political spectrum agree – that’s not right.
Smart Justice reform bills take important bipartisan steps to protect Michiganders’ constitutional rights.
Ensure equal, more effective justice for residents in need of mental health support
In rural Michigan counties, up to 34% of individuals jailed live with a serious mental health issue. Many of these individuals are jailed due to offenses related to their disorder or symptoms. They deserve compassion. They need treatment, not jail.
- At least 59 misdemeanor offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences that prevent judges from using their discretion to protect our communities and residents’ constitutional rights.
- These mandatory minimums can prevent those living with mental health issues who are accused of minor violations from getting the help they need, and making it more likely they will be back in court again later.
Smart Justice pretrial reform equips judges and law enforcement with the tools they need to more effectively serve our communities and help those living with mental health issues obtain the help they need.
Advance racial justice in the criminal legal system
On average in Michigan, Black residents are 6 times more likely to be jailed than white residents for similar offenses.
- Research shows that Black people regularly receive higher bail amounts than their white counterparts who face similar charges.
- In 5 Michigan counties, Black people make up 42% of all people sitting in jail because they are unable to afford their bail, even though they only represent 14% of the local community.
The bipartisan Smart Justice package will help reduce mass incarceration and eliminate racial disparities in our criminal legal system. Now is the time to act.
Equip law enforcement and judges with better options for quickly addressing minor and traffic offenses
Thousands of low-level offenses flood Michigan jails and courts. In fact, traffic violations account for half of all criminal cases, and driving without a valid license is the 3rd most common reason individuals in Michigan are admitted to jail.
- Equipping law enforcement with options other than a time and resource-consuming arrest for many minor offenses, including minor traffic violations, allows them to prioritize true public safety issues instead of spending hours processing individuals who pose no threat to the community.
- Equipping judges with sentencing discretion for minor offenses and traffic violations will also mean more people will be able to return to their homes, jobs, and families—creating stronger communities because of smarter justice.
Build safer, stronger communities, and more
Jailing residents for minor traffic and other violations cost Michiganders their jobs, breaks apart families, separates good parents from their children, and makes it more difficult for the accused to pay outstanding fines, child support, or otherwise contribute to their communities.
- Instead of making our communities safer, jail for non-violent, minor crimes and traffic violations cost jobs, shatter families, and make it more difficult – or impossible – for the accused to pay their tickets.
- We’ll keep our communities safe and better protect the Constitution if we stop suspending and revoking licenses, or even jailing individuals for actions unrelated to driving safety, and treat most traffic offenses as civil infractions, not crimes.