For Immediate Release: April 21, 2021
Contact: Julien Martinez, 347.229.2517, [email protected]
Bipartisan Safer Michigan Act increases support for crime victims, prioritizes rehabilitation to reduce recidivism, and saves millions of taxpayer dollars
LANSING, Mich. – Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a package of public safety reforms – the Safer Michigan Act – which increases recovery support for crime victims, and prioritizes rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism and stop cycles of crime. The bills – with widespread support from crime victims – would enact policies that have proven successful in other states. These include public safety approaches that incentivize people in prison to participate in rehabilitation programming that improve public safety, expand the state’s workforce, and reduce wasteful prison spending. The Safer Michigan Act also removes barriers that crime victims face to accessing support from the state’s victim compensation program, while providing crime survivors with access to housing and employment protections. Altogether, these provisions would improve the well-being and safety of crime victims and communities throughout Michigan, and end cycles of crime.
“No matter our differences, every Michigander can agree that we must rethink how we approach public safety. The Safer Michigan Act aims not only to make our state safer, but also to support communities that have been left behind by the current system,” said Representative Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian). “We have an opportunity to adopt common sense reforms that address the cycle of crime and trauma that impact so many communities. I proudly stand with faith leaders, the business community, and crime survivors as we strive to help our communities heal and thrive.”
The introduction of the legislative package comes as a new report argues that Michigan could save millions of dollars in annual corrections spending by implementing the bill’s incentives for people in prison to participate in rehabilitation programs. The report was commissioned by Alliance for Safety and Justice and co-authored by former American Correctional Association President, Gary Mohr, and former corrections chief for the states of Iowa, Maryland and South Carolina, Gary Maynard. The report highlights how participation in rehabilitation programs reduces recidivism and prepares people to be productive members of society after being released.
Productivity credits, established by the Safer Michigan Act, could be earned upon completion of programs, such as workforce and job training, education certificates, and reentry planning. The credits against someone’s sentence incentivize people to take responsibility for their rehabilitation, while preparing them to return to communities and the workforce. These efforts are critical in Michigan, where the state spends nearly one out of every five dollars of its general fund budget (approximately $2 billion) on prisons.
“Community safety should be about keeping people safe – not just long prison sentences. We must be creative in how we achieve true shared safety, and I’m confident that the Safer Michigan Act will get us closer to that goal,” said Representative Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit).
“It’s the job of an elected official to listen, and I’ve heard from crime victims that the current compensation system is simply inadequate. We must and can do better. This bill includes critical reforms that expand access so that survivors have the tools to heal. These pro-victim provisions – coupled with incentives for rehabilitative programs – are the key to greatly reducing violence in our communities,” said Representative Julie Calley (R-Portland).
“It is clear to so many across Michigan that previous public safety policies simply do not work. We need an alternative approach, and the Safer Michigan Act offers proven solutions that will save lives and help us heal. I look forward to standing with communities across our state to push for this vital legislation,” said Representative Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn).
“The Safer Michigan Act will make our state a national leader in public safety solutions that work, while supporting crime victims heal and recover. In addition to saving lives, these reforms are good economics – incentivizing formerly incarcerated people to become productive members of society will save taxpayer money, create jobs, and help our local economy. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this monumental legislation,” said Representative Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Township).
“The Safer Michigan Act is a common sense approach to safety that not only focuses on the needs of crime survivors, but rightly seeks to address the underlying causes of crime in our communities. We can help break the cycle of violence and cut wasteful spending if we come together to rethink how we can achieve true shared safety across the state,” said Representative Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland).
“Being a crime victim can be an especially traumatizing and life-changing experience, and survivors deserve as much help as possible to heal. I’m proud to support a bill that not only expands access to critical victim compensation services, but ends the cycle of crime by reducing the likelihood that someone will return to prison. Our communities deserve common sense solutions to crime, and this bill offers just that,” said Representative Tenisha Yancey (D-Grosse Pointe)
A recently released study by the Alliance for Safety and Justice revealed that Michigan’s crime victims face immense challenges to receiving recovery support from the state’s victim compensation program, despite 25% of state residents having been the victim of a crime. In order to better support crime survivors, the Safer Michigan Act will:
- Extend the victim compensation program’s support for counseling and loss of wages to all crime victims – including those that experience mental and emotional trauma.
- Increase victim compensation coverage to account for actual costs of funerals, lost wages, and other monetary losses, and to provide support for relocation, transportation, and other costs resulting from crime victimization.
- Eliminate Michigan’s shortest-in-the-country 48-hour time limit for reporting a crime in order to be eligible for victim compensation, and expand the time frame to file an application from one to five years.
- Expand paid medical leave protections and lease termination protections to all violent crime survivors, witnesses, and their family members.
“The Safer Michigan Act would accomplish important public safety priorities focused on ending cycles of crime and meeting the needs of the state’s crime victims,” said Aswad Thomas, Chief of Organizing at Alliance for Safety and Justice, and National Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “Rather than more excessive prison spending, Michigan has an opportunity to advance smart safety reforms that reduce taxpayer costs, improve public safety outcomes by reducing recidivism, and invest in the recovery of crime survivors. These policies have been proven to result in positive outcomes in other states, and we have an opportunity to save lives and make communities safer.
“Countless survivors and their families need support after a violent incident, and access to victim compensation and other services are a critical lifeline to healing and recovery,” said Priscilla Bordayo, crime survivor and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “The Safer Michigan Act tackles the root causes of crime, employing smart safety strategies to make communities safer, while helping survivors navigate the trauma that results from violent crime. These proposed reforms would help ensure safety and stability for so many throughout Michigan.”
“Further aligning Michigan’s criminal justice system with principles and programs that have proven to be effective elsewhere – improving public safety while allowing for redemption – is an important action for our state and its people. The proposed legislation does just that,” said Doug DeVos, past chair of the West Michigan Policy Forum.
“Harsh sentences and a bloated prison system doesn’t keep us safe – but a new approach that addresses trauma and provides opportunity will do exactly that. I strongly support the Safer Michigan Act because this bill addresses the root causes of crime by preventing revictimization while also incentivizing the formerly incarcerated to contribute to society. This is a chance for us to make our state healthier, safer, and more just,” said Craig DeRoche, former president of Justice Fellowship and member of the Council on Criminal Justice.
“I’m proud to stand with Michigan crime survivors in prioritizing rehabilitation and healing over harsh punishments. When individuals have the opportunity to participate in rehabilitative programs, they are more likely to become productive members of their communities and less likely to return to prison. Ultimately, this approach ends the cycle of crime and makes everyone safer,” said Rev. Dr. Steve Bland, Council of Baptist Pastors Detroit and Vicinity, President.
Impact of Productivity Credits
As outlined in The Case for Productivity Credits in Michigan, as states scaled back incentives in the 1980s and 1990s, prison populations grew, corrections budgets expanded, and recidivism rates increased. Today, the federal prison system and an estimated 35 states provide program participation productivity credits. The results are impressive:
- 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.
- In Connecticut, the state reported savings of $39.8 million annually by incentivizing prison rehabilitation program participation.
- Pennsylvania reported savings of $414 million a decade after creating its Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive in 2008.
Incentives for prison rehabilitation programs have garnered widespread support among crime survivors, as evidence has shown they improve public safety outcomes when effectively implemented. Additionally, funds saved from corrections spending could be reallocated towards much-needed investments in community-based crime prevention and trauma recovery. Eight in 10 Michigan crime victims support reducing prison sentences, and three out of four believe rehabilitation, and drug and mental health treatment are more effective at preventing future crime. The full report can be viewed here.
ABOUT THE ALLIANCE FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. It partners with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education, and advocacy. It also brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – its national network of over 46,000 crime survivors with thousands of members in Michigan. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.