LANSING, Mich. (May 18, 2022) — Today, Sens. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), and Reps. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) and Ronnie Peterson (D-Ypsilanti), introduced bills requiring the legislature’s fiscal agencies to include impact studies on criminal law or sentencing guideline legislation as part of their bill analyses.

The legislation, Senate Bills 1048 and 1049, and House Bills 6110 and 6111, would require the Senate Fiscal Agency and the House Fiscal Agency to include disparate impact statements based on race/ethnicity and poverty level for any legislation that seeks to create a new law, or amend existing law, regarding criminal laws and procedure.

“One of the key issues affecting our jail and prison populations is our clumsy and outdated sentencing guidelines,” Sen. Geiss said. “Combined with the lack of implicit racial bias training, we then see Black and Brown communities disproportionately locked up and for longer periods of time, even for nonviolent offenses. Our legislation works to get at the root of this matter by providing additional context to the effect our policy proposals can have on communities of color.”

Michigan is one of 12 states nationally where more than half of the prison population is Black, according to a report by The Sentencing Project, which analyzes the need for racial and gender reforms related to incarceration and incarcerated people.

“The Michigan Legislature has made tremendous strides with criminal justice reform during my time in Lansing, and we can go even further by making sure we have the least amount of racial disparities and inequities possible,” Sen. Chang said. “Communities of color know far too well the impact of racial injustice when it comes to our criminal legal system, and it should be our job to fully examine every criminal justice policy for disparate impact prior to voting.”

Similar efforts to include disparate impact statements alongside proposed changes in criminal law or sentencing have occurred in states such as California, Maine, Maryland, and Virginia, making Michigan the first in the Midwest to recognize — and address — one of the first points of racial bias in the criminal justice system.

“As we all know, our House and Senate Fiscal Agencies prepare a fiscal analysis of every bill that receives a committee hearing. The rationale for such a mechanism is to keep us cognizant of spending implications as we debate policy. A fiscal analysis disciplines us and bends our discussions toward good stewardship of taxpayer monies,” Rep. LaGrand said. “We can use a similar mechanism to prepare an analysis of bills that implicate our criminal laws to summarize the expected impact of proposed bills viewed through a racial impact and an income impact lens. As we work to build and maintain a state with equal treatment in our justice system, this tool will be invaluable to helping us make good policy.”

“The promise of America means an equal justice system, that treats all of our citizens to the same standard and with the same fairness,” said Rep. Peterson. “We never want to risk accidental inequality in an area as important as justice.”