Whitmer signs bills aiming to shift away from jail as punishment for traffic offenses in Michigan

20-bill package prioritizes alternatives to jail when offenders aren’t threat to public

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs a 20-bill package aiming to reshape penalties for traffic offenses on Jan. 4, 2020.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs a 20-bill package aiming to reshape penalties for traffic offenses on Jan. 4, 2020. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a 20-bill package that aims to shift away from using jail and arrests as punishment for traffic offenses unless someone is a danger to the public.

The bipartisan package of criminal justice reform bills resulted from recommendations by the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, according to the state.

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“As a former prosecutor, I recognize how critical it is to take steps toward a smarter and more equitable justice system that not only saves taxpayer money, but keeps people in their communities,” Whitmer said. “Over the last two years, we’ve worked with leaders on both sides of the aisle to make Michigan a national leader on criminal justice reform.”

Members of the task force said low-level infractions, such as driving on a suspended license, violating probation and other misdemeanors, were exhausting public safety resources.

Issuing jail time to people due these types of violations was affecting hundreds of thousands of Michiganders without making the community safer, according to the task force.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of our collective work over the last two years to understand and improve the criminal justice system,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said.

Jail populations had tripled in less than 40 years, the state said. That growth was particularly prevalent in rural communities, officials said.


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