LANSING, Mich., April 20, 2023 — Advocacy and policy groups from across Michigan gathered on the Capitol lawn today for a rally on behalf of “good time” legislation, a monumental initiative that allows people incarcerated in the state’s prisons to earn time off their sentences, rewards good behavior and program participation, and creates a safer, more purposeful prison environment.
Seeking to address the vast sentencing disparities between Michigan and the rest of the country, state Reps. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw) and Jimmie Wilson, Jr. (D-Ypsilanti) have joined a bipartisan coalition of organizations to introduce a package of bills to reinstate “good time” credits.
“This will be the second time I’ve introduced these bills — I won’t stop advocating for them until they are in front of the governor to be signed into law. Michigan is one of only six states in our country that does not offer incarcerated citizens good time credits,” O’Neal said. “These bills provide an incentive for good behavior and for those in the system to work toward reuniting with their loved ones and earning time off their sentence.”
Good time — the opportunity to reduce prison time for positive behavior and programming — is a policy in 44 states throughout the country because it supports rehabilitation and reduces recidivism. It gives prison staff the tools necessary to reduce violence and create a purposeful environment. Its implementation will bring Michigan up to speed with the rest of the country in terms of progress and opportunities for people who are incarcerated. Michigan’s “good time” system was abolished for 80 crimes by a ballot initiative in 1978, and the policy was completely dismantled by the 1990s.
“Good time makes good sense!” state Rep. Jimmie Wilson Jr. (D-Ypsilanti) explains. “I am sponsoring this legislation because it will bring safer environments to our prisons, for both corrections officers and incarcerated individuals, by restoring incentives to focus on rehabilitation to earn good time credits as they prepare to re-enter the community. It’s time to restore good time in Michigan!”
Michigan’s total lack of incentive for earned credits and shorter sentences has resulted in the state having one of the most punitive criminal justice systems in the country. Michigan prisoners serve nearly 17 months more than the national average. Additionally, almost three-quarters of felony sentences to prison in 2012 received minimum sentences that were 110 to 500+% higher than the lowest possible minimum sentence. Right now, people in Michigan will serve 40% longer sentences than others across the country, on average remaining incarcerated for 115% of their sentence time. This has created a bloated, static prison environment that robs individuals of opportunities for improving their lives and forces Michigan Department of Corrections employees to work mandatory overtime in unsafe prison environments.
Ronnie Waters, community engagement specialist at Safe and Just Michigan who has seen the negative effects of Truth in Sentencing firsthand, states, “Good time gives people hope and an incentive to do the right thing. You never want to meet a man who has lost all hope.”
On Monday, April 24, state Reps. Hood, O’Neal and Veronica Paiz (D-Harper Woods) will host a panel discussion alongside Michigan Justice Advocacy and Spread the Vote to answer questions and hear community feedback about the bills, as well as provide information about how Michiganders can offer support.