April, 2019

Criminal Justice Policy Commission
Sentencing Report

The Criminal Justice Policy Commission [“CJPC”] – comprised of seventeen members – was established by Public Act 465 of 2014 to:

Collect, prepare, analyze, and disseminate information regarding state and local sentencing and proposed release policies and practices for felonies and the use of prisons and jails, collect and analyze information concerning how misdemeanor sentences and the detention of defendants pending trial affect local jails, conduct ongoing research regarding the effectiveness of the sentencing guidelines, and in cooperation with the Department of Corrections, collect, analyze, and compile data and make projections regarding the populations and capacities of state and local correctional facilities, the impact of the sentencing guidelines and other laws, rules, and policies on those populations and capacities, and the effectiveness of efforts to reduce recidivism.*

Minutes from March 9, 2019, reveal results from a study of straddle-cell sentencing decisions for offenders convicted of Class E felonies – excluding habitual offenders and those on special status, e.g., HYTA – to determine 1) the extent to which prison sentences are imposed on the offenders in straddle-cells, and 2) whether, for those offenders sent to prison, there are disparities in the rate of prison sentences imposed. The researchers looked at 11,058 cases occurring between 2011– 2017. Of those examined, 24.9% were sent to prison, and 57.14% received sentences of either jail or jail and probation. Eight factors showed a significant association with the probability of a person receiving a prison sentence, and six other factors were found not to be significant.

The eight significant factors affecting the probability of prison were: the circuit court where sentence was imposed; the type of crime, or crime group classification; the method of conviction, whether after trial or by plea; attorney status, whether retained or appointed; gender; race; age; and employment status. The six factors found not to be significant were: offense group, whether assaultive or non-assaultive; Hispanic ethnicity; high school diploma/GED; alcohol abuse history; drug abuse history; and history of mental illness.

Concerning the 58 circuit courts examined, in either 10 or 11 (there is a discrepancy between the figures in Table E1 and Figure E1), a defendant was more likely than the state average (of 28.98%) to be sent to prison. In either 22 or 25 circuit courts there was no significant difference from the state average, and in either 22 or 25 circuits there was a reduced probability of being sent to prison (a map is included in the minutes at page 3, Figure E1).

A defendant convicted after a trial was 44.9% more likely to be sent to prison. A defendant with a retained attorney was 4% less likely to be sent to prison. Black males under the age of 24 were more likely to be sent to prison than were white males. Between the ages of 24 and 35, there was no difference in the rate of black males and white males being sent to prison. Above the age of 36, white males were more likely to be sent to prison than were black males. Black females under the age of 30 were less likely to be sent to prison than were white females; above the age of 30, there was no difference between the rates of black females and white females being sent to prison. Females were less likely than males to be sent to prison. An employed defendant was 9.8% less likely to be sent to prison.

Sources:  *CJPC homepage:
CJPC March 9, 2019, Final Minutes:
*Governor’s web-page:

Traffic-Stop Study Reveals
Racial Disparities

A recent study published by the Stanford Computational Policy Lab examined data from about 93 million traffic stop/police interactions occurring between the years 2011-2017 and involving 21 state patrol agencies (including Michigan) and 29 municipal police agencies (not including any in Michigan), to assess the existence of any racial disparities in the stops and in post-stop searches, as well as the effects on stop and search rates in the Washington and Colorado after marijuana had been legalized. Disparities were found in the data, and, although stops, searches, and arrests were markedly down in Washington and Colorado after legalization of marijuana, the researchers found that “black and Hispanic drivers still face discrimination in search decisions.” Overall, it was found that the “bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers is lower than for searching whites.”

The annual per capita stop rate for state patrol traffic stops was 0.11 for blacks, 0.08 for whites, and 0.05 for Hispanics. The stop rate for municipal agency traffic stops was 0.23 for blacks, 0.17 for whites, and 0.11 for Hispanics. State patrol search-rates were 3.8% for black drivers, 1.6% for white drivers, and 3.6% for Hispanics. The municipal agency search-rates were 15% for black drivers, 11% for white drivers, and 13% for Hispanic drivers. The “hit rates” for finding evidence or contraband in those searches were, for state patrol searches, 32% for black drivers, 36% for white drivers, and 26% for Hispanic drivers. The municipal agency hit rates were 17% for black drivers, 20% for white drivers, and 13% for Hispanic drivers.

Sources:  Emma Pierson, Camelia Simoiu, Jan Overgoor, Sam Corbett-Davies, Daniel Jenson, Amy Shoemaker, Vignesh Ramachandran, Phoebe Barghouty, Cheryl Phillips, Ravi Shroff, and Sharad Goel, “A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States,” Stanford Computational Policy Lab, March 13, 2019:
AJ Willingham, “Researchers studied nearly 100 million traffic stops and found black motorists are more likely to be pulled over,” cnn.com, March 21, 2019:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor