Governor Snyder has a rare opportunity in the American political system: he could enact meaningful criminal justice reform. As a criminal defense attorney, this is the best news since Obama’s guidance against private prisons (recently revoked by the Trump administration).

This Detroit Free Press article does a good job of summing up the bills, but here are some of the highlights:

  • A 30-day maximum jail term for minor probation violations, unless there are multiple violations. This looks good on paper, but I don’t know how big a difference it will make. It’s very rare I see a probation violation based on a single minor violation.
  • Expanded funding for the Swift and Sure Probation Program (SSPP). The Program is an intensive probation program focused on probationers at high risk for future criminal activity, especially drug crimes. The Hawaii program has showed promising results, roughly halving the odds that the parolee will re-offend. That said, it’s a young program. We shouldn’t treat the data as definitive.
  • Grant funding for employers who hire probationers and parolees. This has the potential to be a very good thing. I hear some variation of this story all the time from defendants: “I wanted to turn my life around after prison, but nobody would hire me. Eventually I turned back to drugs.”
  • Special incarceration facilities for inmates ages 18-22. I don’t know what to expect from this. The conventional wisdom is that young people in prisons harden into lifelong criminals because of their contact with the older, more dangerous inmates. I’m not aware of any studies on the subject, but I’m optimistic about the change.

My opinion doesn’t count for much in politics, but I strongly encourage Gov. Snyder to sign this package of bills. If any of you are the political sort, you can share your opinion with the Governor’s office here.

Photo credit: MLive.