LANSING, Mich. — A group of bipartisan lawmakers has introduced a package of bills that would allow some inmates to reducing their sentences by taking courses like GED completion and other vocational classes.
“The system is flawed and I believe it's time for legislators as well as the governor to really step up and correct some of the flaws that we have in our criminal justice system,” said exoneree, Marvin Cotton Jr.
The package is called the Safer Michigan Act would allow inmates to earn “productivity credits" toward earlier release.
State Rep. Tyrone Carter, one of Safer Michigan Act proposal’s sponsors, says the change is practical "because we know they are going to be released eventually" and the state should be preparing them for life beyond prison.
Critics like the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police say the proposal doesn’t take victims into account.
“Victims are not being made the priority they need to be when these things are taken into consideration. We think it removes a right from them,” said St. John’s Police Chief David Kirk, a member of the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs.
Marvin Cotton Jr was incarcerated for many years but was exonerated after evidence proved his innocence.
Cotton says everyone deserves a chance to turn their life around.
“All of us have done things we don’t want to be judged for the rest of our lives. For the people that are eligible for certain programs that will come out of this I believe its good to give something for people to work towards,” he said.
Critics of the state’s criminal justice system say Michigan’s incarceration rate is high and it’s time to change to bring those numbers down.
In 2019, Michigan's incarceration rate ranked 22nd in the nation, according to federal data. Michigan has about 40,000 people in prison. Ohio had just over 50,000, while Indiana had just over 33,000 in 2019.
The Safer Michigan Act would only apply to people who are sentenced after it passes. Inmates serving life without parole would not be eligible.
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