March, 2018: Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS)

Medically Frail Bills Move On to
House Floor

Michigan’s prison population is aging. It is the oldest in the country with an average age of 39. Nearly a quarter of all prisoners are over 50 years old, and many have complex health problems that are getting steadily worse – and more expensive to treat.

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) reported last year that as many as 850 people under their custody, approximately two percent of the population, may be medically frail. Medically frail people are unable to perform basic tasks of daily living, such as getting dressed, using the bathroom, or eating without assistance.

Representative Dave Pagel (R – District 78) and Representative Peter Lucido (R – District 36) have sponsored legislation that permits medical paroles for the medically frail.

• House Bill (HB) 4101 allows the parole board to use their parole discretion once someone is determined to be medically frail.
• HB 4102 clarifies that any incarcerated person can be eligible for the special medical parole, even prior to their first parole eligibility date.

On February 28, 2018, modified versions of both bills were voted out of the House Appropriations Subcommittee with overwhelming support. The significant modifications to HB 4102 include:

• Establishing a process for prosecutors to object to the parole of individuals that have not served their minimum sentence and litigate whether they are “medically frail”; and

• Excluding people with first degree murder and first degree criminal sexual conduct convictions.

Despite our continued support of the bills, we are very concerned the amendments will slow the process for medical parole and exclude many medically frail incarcerated people.

However, the bills still are a step in the right direction. The legislation will allow nursing and end-of-life care to be placed in the hands of medical professionals at a significant savings to taxpayers.

On March 7, 2018, both bills were voted out of the House with over 90 votes in favor and were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Calls to End Longstanding Backlog
of Mental Health Evaluations

Michigan has a longstanding backlog of cases at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry, a state-operated facility that provides diagnostic services to the criminal justice system. The average wait time for a competency examination in Michigan is six months. This results in unnecessarily long pretrial detention of people with mental illness at the expense of taxpayers.

Representative Klint Kesto (R – District 39) seeks to limit delays and increase the number of facilities available to conduct competency examinations. House Bills 5244 and 5246 create strict timelines for mental health evaluations such as requiring psychological examinations to occur within 45 days of a court order.

On February 28, 2018, both bills were voted out of the House with overwhelming support and were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

We commend Representative Kesto for working proactively to address the existing problem of the backlog of mental health evaluations. In addition to this legislation, CAPPS urges the Legislature to provide additional fiscal resources to adequately staff the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

Rep. Kesto’s press release on the bills is located at

Raise-the-Age Cost Study Does Not
Offer the Full Picture

Only Michigan and four other states treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Currently, a 17-year-old, who is legally too young to vote, marry, or join the military, can be convicted in adult court.

There is little disagreement among stakeholders that raise-the-age is good for Michigan. However, uncertainty about the potential costs of this reform has delayed legislative activity for much of the last two sessions. During this time, several other states passed similar raise-the-age legislation.

This reform would shift some state-level costs to the counties. Currently, counties receive state funding and are responsible for many costs in the juvenile system.

The Criminal Justice Policy Commission, created in the Legislative Council by Public Act 465 of 2014, commissioned a study of the potential costs related to this reform effort. The final report was approved at a meeting in the Capitol on March 7.

The cost study, prepared by Hornby Zeller Associates, a consulting firm with headquarters in New York, does not capture the important societal benefits of raising the age of criminal responsibility. These benefits include better outcomes for justice-involved juveniles, reduced costs to the adult system, and long-term increases in community safety and productivity.

Despite the absence of this information, the report offers an opportunity to incorporate these issues into the raise-the-age conversation, which will present a more holistic picture of the benefits of raising the age in Michigan.

We look forward to following the lead of other states and raising the age of criminal responsibility in Michigan.

Proposed Medicaid Rules Will Create
New Barriers to Employment;
Reduce Public Safety

Access to employment is essential to a meaningful second chance for justice-involved people. It is also good public policy: it promotes public safety by reducing recidivism, it increases the number of available workers for businesses, and it adds taxpayers to communities.

Unfortunately, some well-meaning policymakers adopt counter-productive and exclusionary policies that create more barriers to employment for justice-involved people.

Medicaid rules proposed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) last October are a good example of a counter-productive policy.

The proposed Provider Fitness Enrollment Criteria (1635-PE) governing providers’ participation in Michigan’s Medicaid program would terminate a provider’s enrollment in Michigan’s Medicaid program if the provider, any agent of a provider, or any other professional providing services under Medicaid, has been convicted of a federal or state felony or misdemeanor within the last 10 years.

A wide range of provider and advocacy organizations were extremely concerned about the impact of these rules, especially on the ability to employ peer counselors, who play a key role in Michigan’s response to the opioid crisis. Prior justice-involvement is key to peer counselors’ effectiveness with these patients.

MDHHS received over 300 opposing public comments about the proposed rule before the November 2017 deadline, including from CAPPS. The rule was also opposed by the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration – another unit of MDHHS.

Though the new rules were scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2018, the public outcry led MDHHS to withdraw them for revision based on the public comments. CAPPS is among the organizations closely monitoring the rewriting of these rules and will report on any new developments.

See more at:

Objective Parole Reform (HB 5377)
Moves Forward

House Bill 5377, sponsored by Representative Klint Kesto (R – District 39), will establish an objective parole process. The bill will promote consistency in the parole process, while preserving the parole board’s ability to deny parole to anyone for objective public safety reasons.

On April 10, 2018, the House Law and Justice Committee voted by an overwhelming bipartisan majority (9 yes votes and 3 passes) to send HB 5377 to the full House for consideration. CAPPS applauds Rep. Kesto’s leadership in advancing this evidence-based parole policy.

Amendments to the Original Bill

The bill voted out of committee was drafted in consultation with numerous stakeholders — including the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan. The bill that was voted out of the committee on April 10, 2018, included several amendments to address concerns raised through this collaborative process.

These amendments:

• Remove references to specific reasons to deny parole that were considered “subjective”;
• Add the following to the list of substantial and compelling reasons to deny parole to a low-risk person: 1) lack of an adequate parole plan, and 2) a recent psychiatric evaluation that finds an individual poses a high risk to public safety; and

CAPPS does not believe all these modifications were necessary to protect public safety. However, in the interest of winning a reform bill based on a collaborative process with important stakeholders that will help many thousands of prisoners, we support the bill, as amended.

After a vote on HB 5377 by the full House of Representatives, it moves to a Senate Committee, the full Senate, and then, hopefully, onto the Governor’s desk for his signature.

If you would like to join CAPPS’ efforts, please contact Laura Sager, executive director, at or select “Join” on the CAPPS website home page
in the upper right corner.