State laying plans to put new criminal justice laws to work

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service
LANSING — For the 18 criminal justice revamp bills signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last month, the next step is making the changes necessary throughout Michigan’s criminal justice system to spur them into action. The updates to the state’s criminal justice system as a whole are meant to signal an emphasis on prisoner rehabilitation, as well as reducing recidivism and streamlining the system. This mostly involves incorporating more evidence-driven programs, or initiatives that have proved successful elsewhere. Most of the bills will take effect on June 28.  Several of the bills will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2018.

Criminal justice bills would define problems to help solve them

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s recidivism rate is significantly higher than the national average. Or is it? No one knows for sure, supporters of a criminal justice revamp package say, thanks to a lack of agreement among state agencies about which measurements to use in defining how often convicted criminals go on to commit future crimes. And that’s just one part of the problem. A piece of legislation defining recidivism and how to calculate a rate is one of 20 bills in a package that supporters say would enhance the efficiency of Michigan’s criminal justice system.

Advocates say state needs more discretion with youth offenders

By BROOKE KANSIER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s tough approach to youth crime is under scrutiny. It’s the result of a bigger problem, says Kathleen Bailey, a professor and director of the School of Criminal Justice at Grand Valley State University. The problem boils down to “get tough” policies Michigan and many other states passed in the 1980s and 1990s on juvenile crime, she said. Those laws created policies like “adult time for adult crime,” which encouraged charging youth as adults ¬– often with stricter sentencing and more jail time – in the wake of what many people feared was a massive juvenile crime wave. “What happened is you got these unforgiving sentences and policies against youth offenders that were kind of built by a lie – the Armageddon never came,” Bailey said.

State Police seek to shrink trooper gender gap

By BROOKE KANSIER
Capital News Service
LANSING — With male troopers outnumbering females 9-1, the Michigan State Police is reaching out to aspiring woman troopers to improve gender diversity numbers — both in the present and the future. Women make up just under 10 percent of the current State Police force. This number has dropped from past diversity improvements that followed a Federal Justice Department lawsuit against the MSP in 1975, which accused the department of discriminating against females and minorities when hiring state troopers. Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue — who became the MSP’s first female director in 2011 — said that improving this percentage is a priority.

Michigan Welfare Limit Raises Questions

By Katie Harrington
Old Town Times staff writer

The new four-year limit on families receiving welfare in Michigan has raised questions about increased crime and homelessness in Old Town. Sheila Maxwell, an Associate Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice, said that since the assumption is that the people who are being taken off welfare really need assistance, there would be a lot of people in trouble.  “[The senate] didn’t want people to abuse welfare, but if these people indeed really did need assistance, they would be out on the street,” Maxwell said. “Whenever you see people removed from welfare rolls, you can expect to see an increase in crime and disorder,” said Bonnie Bucqueroux, former associate director of the National Center for Community Policing at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice.  “For a community like Old Town, my concern would be an increase in shoplifting, panhandling, prostitution and street corner drug sales.”

Lansing Police Lt. Noel Garcia said he would not speculate about possible outcomes and that the police department currently doesn’t have any strategies to deal with the issues if they do come up. “I would think police would want to get ahead of the issue rather than play catch up,” said Bucqueroux. Judy Putnam, the communications director for the Michigan League for Human Services, said there is no concern for increased homelessness and crime in the Lansing area.  “I don’t think we should assume that because people are low income they are criminals,” Putnam said.  “And we have to remember that Ingham County is not going to be affected as much as other counties because there are only 70 cases of people losing their assistance here.”

In fact, Ingham County is ranked number 12 on the list of most families being affected by the measure.  Wayne County is number one with 6,560 families affected.