Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS

Legislature Advances Criminal Justice Reforms

Both the House and Senate continue advancing dozens of bills, including many that could affect the size of the prison and jail populations.

The bills include House-passed parole reforms (presumptive or evidence-based parole, medical paroles and the judicial veto bill), a package of juvenile justice reforms, and an 18-bill package that has already cleared the Senate. There were also a number of positive changes in the MDOC budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

To hear the May 10 WKAR interview with Barbara Levine, CAPPS's associate director discussing the criminal justice reform bills now pending in the legislature, visit: ers-advance-introduce-new-prison-reforms#stream/0

Medical Parole Bills Pass House 95-13; Then Stall in the Senate Judiciary Committee

Find medical parole bills and CAPPS testimony here:

The medical parole bills, sponsored by Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), allow the parole board to release low-risk, medically frail prisoners to medical care facilities.  An estimated 120 prisoners a year could be eligible for medical paroles at a savings the House Fiscal Agency estimates at $2.4 million annually. Issues related to Medicaid eligibility for these parolees still need to be resolved.

  • HB 5078 establishes eligibility criteria and procedures for medical paroles.
  • HB 5079 provides technical amendments to a related statute.
  • HB 5081 makes it a misdemeanor to help a medical parolee abscond.

The Committee voted 3-2 against advancing the bill to the Senate floor. Senators Colbeck, Schuitmaker and Rocca cast the three “no” votes.  The Committee agreed to reconsider the vote at a subsequent hearing. 

Judicial Veto Bill Passes Full House 96-12

Find judicial veto bill and CAPPS testimony here:

HB 5273, sponsored by Rep. David Pagel (R-Oronoko Twp.), eliminates the authority of successor sentencing judges to veto grants of parole to lifers.  The bill will still allow the sentencing judge to veto parole as long as he or she is still sitting in the court where the prisoner was convicted. The successor judge would still be notified and able to express an opinion but that opinion would no longer be controlling.

The Michigan Judges Association, which recognizes that the veto authority actually burdens successor judges with a responsibility they are not well positioned to exercise, supports the bill.  HB 5273 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Criminal Justice Reform Package Passes Senate

Find the Senate criminal justice reform package, CAPPS analysis and testimony here:

On May 3, an 18-bill package of criminal justice reforms was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Michigan Competitiveness, chaired by Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson). The package is spearheaded by Senator John Proos (R-Saint Joseph).  The full package was voted out of the Senate the last day before the legislature recessed for the summer.

Barbara Levine, CAPPS associate director, provided legislators with a bill-by-bill analysis of the package and testified at three Senate Committee on Michigan Competitiveness hearings on the package.

The bills were all voted out of the committee in May and are now pending action by the full Senate.

One of Senator Proos's key concerns is the rate that people under supervision end up in prison. CAPPS is currently conducting research on parole technical violators and will be releasing findings later this year.

Levine and Noah Smith, CAPPS’s governmental relations consultant, will continue to meet with legislators to discuss our analysis and recommendations.

Positive Changes in MDOC FY 2017 Budget MDOC Budget Highlights, FY 2017

The FY 2016-17 MDOC budget of $2,002,729,000 was adopted by the legislative conference committee on June 1, 2016. Several aspects are of particular interest to members and supporters:

The prisoner population has declined to 42,416.  As a result, the MDOC has closed housing units at various facilities.  Effective at the end of September, these empty beds will be consolidated into the closure of the Pugsley Correctional Facility, which will eliminate 238 FTEs and save $22 million.

The Senate had proposed closing two facilities, but leasing the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, which is owned by the GEO Corporation.

No funds are appropriated for placing prisoners in leased jail beds.  The Senate wished to continue the use of “virtual prisons,” which CAPPS and other organizations strongly opposed.  However MDOC Director Heidi Washington agreed that these were not appropriate placements and determined that there were no significant savings from housing prisoners in local jails.  In fact the budget shows a $1.6 million savings from “in-sourcing” leased beds.  On the other hand, the reimbursement rate to counties for housing in local jails people who would have otherwise been prison-bound will increase by $5/day.

$10 million was added to cover the increased cost of treating prisoners with Hep C with highly effective new medications.

Funding was added for numerous programs intended to reduce probation and parole revocations and increase offender success.

An additional $2 million was added to expand the “Vocational Village” concept currently being piloted at the Michigan Training Unit to a second facility.  Prisoners participating in a career and technical education program live and work together in a positive learning environment.

Funding for the Parole Sanction Certainty Pilot program being run by K-PEP was increased from $500,000 to $1.4 million, although the Goodwill Flip the Script program was decreased from $2 million to $1.5.

A pilot program to provide medication-assisted treatment for parolees addicted to opioids or alcohol will receive $500,000.

Nearly $7.5 million was added to mirror programs proposed in current Senate bills that have not yet been enacted.  $3 million was added for the Supervising Region Incentive Program (SB 935) and $4.6 million was added for Criminal Justice Reinvestment (SB 936).

Boilerplate provisions indicate substantial legislative interest in receiving data about in-prison program delivery, completion and effectiveness; parole grant rates and community-based recidivism reduction efforts.  In particular:

Sec. 22 requires quarterly reporting about the number of paroles granted, denied or deferred according to parole guidelines scores, including information about the number of prior continuances and the reasons for denials or deferrals.

Sec. 615, which was initially proposed by CAPPS, requires the MDOC to report the number of parolable lifers who are currently eligible for release.  For those lifers who have served more than 25 years, the report must include among other details:

  • Age at offense
  • Reasons for decision not to release
  • Parole guidelines score
  • Dates of parole board interviews
  • Dates of parole board file reviews
  • True security classification
  • Current age

“Raise The Age” Bills Clear House

In April, the House also approved a package of "Raise the Age" bills by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The bills provide more protections to incarcerated young offenders and increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18.

You can read about the Raise the Age campaign here:


by Laura Sager, Executive Director
Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending

The Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS) is a non-profit public policy organization. We are concerned about Michigan’s excessive use of punitive strategies rather than preventive ones to deal with crime and its impact on our quality of life. CAPPS advocates re-examining those policies and shifting our resources to services that prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders and address the needs of all our citizens in a cost-effective manner. For more information about CAPPS’s research, recommendations, or to get involved, please go to the CAPPS website at or email Laura Sager, executive director, at If you are interested in helping with CAPPS’s public education and outreach efforts, please email Laura Sager at