Michigan ballot initiative hopes to restore prisoners’ ability to earn time off sentence with good behavior

‘MDOC residents have endured one of the harshest sentencing guidelines’

Incarcerated people in Michigan state prisons are required to serve their minimum sentence and cannot earn credits for good behavior unless the crime was committed before 1987.

The Liberty and Justice for All Coalition is working to bring change to the prison system through a ballot initiative. The group did not collect enough signatures to get on the Nov. 2022 ballot, but said they will continue working ahead of the 2024 election.

What are known as “good time” laws allowed days to be subtracted from an incarcerated person’s sentence for good behavior. Michigan’s Truth in Sentencing law was established in 1998 and eliminated good time credits. The newer law requires incarcerated people to serve their entire minimum sentence before they can be considered for parole.

If a person committed a crime after April 1, 1987, and is sentenced to state prison, they will be required to serve their minimum sentence regardless of good behavior or participation in rehabilitation activities.

“MDOC residents have endured one of the harshest sentencing guidelines in the United States because of its archaic truth-in-sentencing laws,” the Liberty and Justice For All Coalition said in a press release. “Good time credits incentivize incarcerated individuals to participate in rehabilitative practices. Instead of the imprisoned spending years of their lives in a cell without hope, good time allows them to pursue an education, job skills, and discover the power of community redemption and reunite with their families. "

According to the coalition, 16 states enacted the truth-in-sentencing guidelines from 1994 to 1998 to receive incentives from the federal government. The incentives ended in 2000. Ten of the 16 states have less-restrictive sentencing guidelines.

“Even though it will not make it on the ballot this year, our job isn’t over. The Liberty and Justice for all Coalition will fight to get good time credit on the 2024 ballot,” the coalition said.

Click here to learn more about the Good Time Initiative.




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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.