Michigan Business Groups Join Key Safety Stakeholders to Support Major Part of Safer Michigan Act As Common Sense Solution to Public Safety & Economic Recovery

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 30, 2021
Contact: [email protected]

Michigan Business Groups Join Key Safety Stakeholders to Support Major Part of Safer Michigan Act As Common Sense Solution to Public Safety & Economic Recovery

At Thursday Hearing, Crime Victims, Business Leaders, and Law Enforcement Officials Say New Legislation Would Help End Cycles of Crime and Support State Economy

Productivity Credits Program Praised for Potential to Strengthen Michigan’s Workforce

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan crime survivors were joined by some of the state’s largest business groups today in announcing support for bills of the Safer Michigan Act legislative package that prioritizes rehabilitation and workforce development to reduce recidivism, stop cycles of crime, and improve public safety. As a Michigan House of Representative committee held a hearing on the “productivity credits” (HB 4670-4673) components of the legislative package, key public safety experts, including members of law enforcement, were joined by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, West Michigan Policy Forum, and the Grand Rapids Chamber in praising the legislation for helping ensure that people returning from prison successfully reenter society to join the workforce and contribute to the state’s economic recovery. The Safer Michigan Act also includes legislation to increase recovery support for victims of crime, which will be considered at a later hearing.

The bills of the Safer Michigan Act are sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers – Representatives Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), Brian Posthumus (R-Cannon Township), Julie Calley (R-Portland), Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland), Tenisha Yancey (D-Grosse Pointe), and Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) – and were introduced earlier in the year. The “productivity credits” legislation, if passed, would incentivize participation in rehabilitation programs that prepare eligible incarcerated people, who will eventually be released, to be job-ready and remain crime-free upon returning to their communities. These types of programs have been proven to lower recidivism, increase public safety, and reduce wasteful prison spending, according to a report co-authored by two of the nation’s leading correctional experts, who also testified at the hearing.

“As Michigan businesses work to build sustained economic growth, innovative solutions are needed to ensure a broad-based recovery,” said Sandy Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. “The Safer Michigan Act not only prioritizes making us safer, but also bolsters our economy and workforce by preparing people who will return from incarceration to communities to become productive members of society once they’re released.” 

“Too often, incarcerated individuals are released back into society without the tools or support needed to have stable jobs and give back to their communities,” said Mike Jandernoa, West Michigan Policy Forum Policy Chair. “The Safer Michigan Act’s productivity credits program holds people accountable, while incentivizing them to participate in programming that is proven to improve outcomes, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety.”

“Research has shown that equipping an offender for gainful employment quickly upon their release from prison is one of the most effective strategies for reducing repeat criminal behavior,” said David Guenthner, Senior Strategist for State Affairs at Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “The productivity credits in HB 4670, the Safer Michigan Act, will provide a strong incentive for MDOC inmates to participate in educational and vocational programming critical for their success after prison.”

The “productivity credits” bills have garnered support from Michigan crime survivors, including local members of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice from across the state.  

“The Safer Michigan Act is a proven and thoughtful approach to safety that has incorporated the voices of crime victims across the state,” said Aswad Thomas, Chief of Organizing at Alliance for Safety and Justice, and National Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “By focusing on rehabilitation, we can expand opportunity and reduce the chances of someone returning to prison. With this bill package, the state legislature has an opportunity to tackle the root causes of crime and improve public safety for all. Together, we can ensure that we protect current victims and prevent future victimization.”  

Priscilla Bordayo, a survivor of crime from Lansing and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice stated: “The Safer Michigan Act prioritizes rehabilitation that can help end cycles of crime and trauma in our communities. I’m currently experiencing the very thing I’m wanting you to support. My cousin was killed by a drive-by shooting. The man who shot her is up for parole and could be released by the parole board. My uncle’s response to his possible release was, ‘Nothing can bring my daughter back, but is he a changed man? Did he get rehabilitated, that’s what I care most about.’    

Several law enforcement and public safety experts testified or submitted statements in favor of the bills, including Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson and Wayne County Sheriff Ray Washington.  

Productivity credits, established by the Safer Michigan Act, could be earned through participation in evidence-based programs, such as workforce and job training, education certificates and reentry planning, that reduce recidivism. A limited amount of credit against an eligible person’s sentence would move them towards parole eligibility, incentivizing them to take responsibility for their rehabilitation and preparing them to be productive when released. People convicted of murder, sexual assault and human trafficking would not be eligible to earn productivity credits. If passed, productivity credits would only apply to eligible individuals after the Act’s effective date, not retroactively. 

The federal system and over 30 states currently provide program participation productivity credits. According to the report co-authored by former American Correctional Association presidents, Gary Mohr (former Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections) and Gary Maynard (former corrections chief for Iowa, Maryland, and South Carolina), these programs have impressive results. States like New York and Ohio reported a 50 percent drop in recidivism for people who participated in a college degree program during their sentence and Pennsylvania reported savings of $414 million a decade after creating its Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive in 2008. 

A survey of Michigan crime victims, commissioned by Alliance for Safety and Justice, found that 8 out of 10 victims support reducing prison sentences for people in prison who participate in rehabilitation programs.