Legislation addresses Michigan’s longest-in-the-nation prison sentences

LANSING, Mich., March 19, 2024 — House Dems testified on the Second Look sentencing bill package today in the House Criminal Justice Committee. House Bills 455660 would allow an incarcerated individual the opportunity to petition to their judge, after they have served at least 10 years on their sentence, to petition the court for resentencing. Michigan is known for some of the longest sentences in the county, and it has been found that sentence length is one of the least effective ways to deter crime. These five bills address the burdens that long sentences and large prison populations have on Michiganders. 

“These bills make sense and will alleviate a lot of issues not only in Michigan’s large prison population — a result of mass incarceration policies — but also the staffing issue Michigan Department of Corrections is facing to recruit correction officers,” said state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt), chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, spearhead of the bill package and sponsor of HB 4556. “We are also addressing gross racial injustice through this legislation — in Michigan’s criminal justice system: 51% of Michigan’s prison population is Black, while Black individuals only make up 14% of our total state population. It’s time that these bills get moving, and I am proud to be a part of that.”

This second look legislation has specific qualifications for incarcerated individuals to have the ability to petition for the court to reconsider their sentences. For example, individuals convicted of mass shootings would not qualify for reconsideration. If a judge denies the reconsideration, the individual can bring another petition to the court in two to five years.

“This is very important legislation. People who have done their time in the system and those who have found redemption, education, and a community deserve the opportunity for their sentence to be reconsidered — that’s all we are asking,” said state Rep. Jimmie Wilson, Jr. (D-Ypsilanti), sponsor of HB 4458 and chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Judiciary. “These bills will help save our state money by alleviating our criminal justice institutions, relieve concerns by corrections officers whose jobs are made harder with understaffing and provide our system the ability to resentence through the law, if the facts and the discretion of the judge allow.”

Michigan spends about $48,000 a year per prisoner and holds over 32,000 prisoners within the state. About 32% of the prison population in Michigan has served 10 or more years of a sentence, while the national average for that rate is about 17%. The introduced bills will help address changing these numbers for the better.

“This legislation really rounds out the momentous policy changes we’ve seen this legislative session on criminal justice reform. We’re serious about being a state that affords individuals a second chance. This is an effective tool for fairness and more appropriate sentencing, and it is also restorative for those who take accountability and complete their sentences. We’re making smart policy decisions that enable the opportunity for a second chance at redemption,” said state Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit), sponsor of HB 4559.