Michigan Criminal Justice Policy: A Look Back at 2023

Image of rally on MI State capitol steps

Earlier in 2023 we previewed major criminal justice reform proposals that advocates were eying for the 2023-2024 legislative cycle.

After one year into a 2-year cycle, where do these criminal legal reforms stand? We have seen several wins, especially with the Juvenile Justice reform package and several funding requests. Other substantive policy changes such as those related to bail and sentencing reforms have not moved forward. 

Coming into a contentious election year, many observers anticipate that leaders in the house and senate will avoid contentious votes prior to the November election.

Youth Justice

2023 was a strong year for improvements to the youth justice system as leaders in both parties championed efforts to implement the Task Force On Juvenile Justice Reform:

(Note: several bills were introduced in parallel in the House and Senate. In these situation the final bills enacted into law are highlighted in green)

PolicyHouse SenateStatus
Enhance the Child Care Fund (CCF): MCYJ is working to help establish a minimum framework of juvenile justice best practices statewide. These best practices would be supported by an increase in the community-based services and supervision reimbursement rate for counties and tribes.
The FY2023-2024 budget includes $31.5M “increase the state Child Care Fund reimbursement rate from 50% to 75% for community-based juvenile justice services.”
Expand Youth Indigent Defense. The expansion would include development, oversight, and compliance with youth defense standards in county defense systems through the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission and expand the State Appellate Defender Office.
The FY2023-2024 budget includes $557k to support expanded appellate support for juveniles through the State Appellate Defender’s Office.
The bills to expand youth defense have passed the house and passed committee in the Senate and are awaiting a final vote in the Senate. They were not moved with the full bill package due to reported budget concerns. MI-CEMI joined other advocates to push for passage of this remaining bill. 
The bills to expand appellate defense have been signed and enacted
Strengthen and Expand the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman: The need is to enhance new and current processes for handling, investigating, and reporting incidents in juvenile facilities. 
The FY2023-2024 budget included $2M to support recommendation to create a Juvenile Justice Services division in the judiciary.


Expand Diversion: MCYJ and their partners aim to change the law so that the overwhelming majority of offenses are eligible for pre-court diversion, based on the use of a risk screening tool and other factors.4625

Modify when youth can be transferred to adult court: Factors considered by courts for traditional waivers to adult court and designations would account for youth’s developmental maturity and emotional and mental health, and their ability to access treatment and rehabilitation. 46330427Signed/enacted
Eliminate most Juvenile Court Fine and Fees with the exception of  restitution and victim rights funds.4634 

Addressing Youth In Solitary Confinement-like Conditions: In response to reports of mistreatment of youth in Wayne County’s juvenile detention facility and beyond, Citizens For Prison Reform is advocating for the end of solitary confinement-like conditions in the youth justice system as part of their Open MI Door campaign.No legislation introduced yet.

Public Safety and Incarceration Prevention

There are many ways to promote public safety that do not rely on incarceration and to provide for oversight and accountability for law enforcement. We collectively call these “Incarceration Off-Ramps.” 

We include in this category policies related to the court system that improve defense for people who cannot afford an attorney and expand transparency of the court system.

PolicyHouse SenateStatus
Pretrial/Bail Reform: A broad coalition of organizations, including MI-CEMI members such as the ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Liberation, Detroit Justice Center, Safe and Just Michigan, Prison Fellowship, and the Vera Institute, and more are pushing to see pretrial reform passed.4655
Supporters introduced an 8-bill reform package in summer 2023. The package has some Republican support, but the bills have not yet been brought for a committee hearing.
Police Reform & Oversight: Last session bills to ban chokeholds, improve use of force oversight, ban no-knock warrants, and more were stuck in committee. House and Senate leaders have been working on bill proposals, but they have not yet been introduced
Prevention and non-police response: The FY2023-2024 budget included $6.8M “to reduce firearm related injuries and fatalities and to support community-based organizations that provide community violence intervention services” and $1.5M for grants in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Kalamazoo for community-based, non-police response programs.Signed/enacted
Conviction Integrity: The 2023-2024 budget included $1M in the attorney general’s budget to investigate innocence claimsSigned/enacted
Court Data Transparency: The 2023-2024 budget included $4.5M for a statewide Court Data Transparency modelSigned/enacted
Indigent Defense:  The 2023-2024 budget Included $3.2M to create a cost-share arrangement to increase compensation for appellate counsel for indigentdefense.Signed/enacted
Deceptive interrogation of minors: This bill would limit the admissibility of self-incriminating statements made by minors during custodial detention or as a result of deceptive interrogation techniques. It is in the House Committee on Criminal Justice, but it has not received a hearing. 4436 No action

Length of Stay/Sentencing Reform

PolicyHouse SenateStatus
Ending Juvenile Life Without Parole: Safe and Just Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and many other advocates helped reintroduce bills to limit prison sentences for people who commit crimes as children. 4160
The Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety committee held hearings for the Senate bills in March.  The House Criminal Justice Committee held hearings on the House bills in May.Both Senate and House bills have stalled at this time. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) mobilized against the bills.
Second Look Resentencing: A coalition of organizations including American Friends Service Committee, Safe and Just Michigan, The Sentencing Project, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Detroit Justice Center, the State Appellate Defender Office, National Lifers of America, and more worked to lay the groundwork to advance “Second Look” policies in Michigan. Second Look allows someone who has already served 10-15 years in prison the opportunity to go before their sentencing judge for a potential resentencing. If successful, they would be eligible to go before the parole board earlier. Second Look policies recognize that long prison sentences don’t deter crime, that people who have served long sentences have very low recidivism rates, and that mature adults don’t make the same mistakes as emerging adults do.4556
A five-bill package has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Neither committee has brought the bills up for hearings. 
Sentencing Commission: In December 2021 Safe and Just Michigan released a report titled Do Michigan’s Sentencing Guidelines Meet the Legislature’s Goals? A Historical and Empirical Analysis of Prison Terms for Life-Maximum Offenses. Among the recommendations is a proposal to re-establish a sentencing commission to use expert guidance and data-driven rigor to clean up and maintain sentencing guidelines. 4173
Versions of the bills passed the House and Senate in June. However, as there were differences between the House and Senate versions, a final bill has not yet been sent to the governor. 
On October 31, 2023, Safe & Just Michigan reported, “The Legislature is close to passing a plan we support that would create a sentencing commission,” but time ran out to pass that legislation prior the the legislature adjourning. 
Good Time Credits: MI-CEMI Steering Committee member Citizens for Prison Reform is supporting the Good Time Credits bills sponsored by Michigan Justice Advocacy. This policy would allow incarcerated people the ability to earn time off their prison sentence by demonstrating behavioral change in measurable ways. 4668
A bipartisan bill package for Good Time was introduced in the House in April. It has not yet received a hearing.
In addition to the legislative push, Michigan Justice Advocacy is organizing a ballot campaign to put the legislation before voters in the November 2024 election. The group must collect at least 356,958 signatures over 180 days to qualify for the ballot. 
Productivity Credits: Alliance for Safety and Justice is leading a coalition for a bill package that would allow incarcerated people to earn reductions in their sentence for participating in programming that reduces their chance of recidivism post-release. These credits would only apply to new prison sentences and would exclude a variety of offense types. 4450
The House Criminal Justice held hearings on the bills in May 2023, and the House and Senate criminal justice committees held joint hearings on the bills in September of 2023. The bills have not had a committee vote.
Medical Parole: Michigan’s current medical parole act is overly restrictive, severely limiting the options for severely ill people who are not a threat to public safety.0599Bipartisan legislation to amend the medical parole rules was introduced in the Senate in October. It has not yet been heard in committee. 

Prison Conditions, Programming,  and MDOC Oversight

PolicyHouse SenateStatus
MDOC Oversight: Citizens for Prison Reform has led over efforts to expand the duties and powers of the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman.0493The bipartisan bill to modify the powers of the corrections ombudsman was fast tracked through the Senate in the final days of the 2023 term. It is now in the House Committee on Government Operations.
Segregation and Conditions Reform: Citizens For Prison Reform has been leading the Open MI Door campaign to address solitary confinement use and conditions in Michigan and plans to continue to push for tight restrictions on the use of solitary confinement and strong regulations regarding treatment and conditions that lead to the use of solitary confinement. The segregation bill has not been introduced yet this term. 
Phone Fees: As discussed in our Look Back to 2022, Safe and Just Michigan, Citizens for Prison Reform, AFSC, Worth Rises, and others won a major victory to reduce fees through the budget process. They continue to push forward to fully eliminate the fees (as California and Connecticut have), and are exploring both legislative and policy options. The 2023-2024 budget induced $3.9M to create an internal unit for investigatory and intelligence operations, withthe belief that this would allow for a reduction in prison phone fees. Whether or not this will lead to reductions remains to be seen.
Family Visitation: Just as eliminating phone fees is a way to maintain family connections and reduce recidivism, so is allowing family visits. However, under current  Legislative Administrative Rule, an incarcerated person can lose their visits for conduct unrelated to visits; for example, having two tickets for substance use while incarcerated. Citizens For Prison Reform is working to get the Legislative Administrative Rule changed that allows the Director of DOC to take visits permanently, to one that is supportive of family contact and reunification.Citizens for Prison Reform was able to get reporting language about loss of visits placed in the FY23-24 budget. 
Body Cameras for Corrections Officers: The 2023-2024 budget includes $7M for body cameras for correctional officers. Signed/enacted
Higher Education in Prison: The 2023-2024 budget includes $1.5M to expand access to comprehensive bachelor’s degree programs.Signed/enacted
Scholarships for Incarcerated Students: These bills would eliminate the prohibition of state scholarships going to incarcerated students5175 5176 5177 The House Higher Education Committee heard these bills on 10/25/2023, including testimony from Nation Outside’s Jessica Henry (at 1:02:33 mark in video)
Prison Gerrymandering: SB0494 to use the pre-incarceration address of someone held in prison for the purpose of redistricting. This bill supercedes an earlier bill, SB0033. SB0494 This bill received a hearing in the Senate Elections and Ethics committee on October 2023. 
FOIA Restoration: This bill would allow incarcerated individuals to request records related to their own case or to their minor children for which they have custody–rights which they are currently denied and which are essential to attempting to show a wrongful conviction. HB4427No action. 


PolicyHouse SenateStatus
Fair Chance Housing: Housing discrimination is a major barrier for people with criminal histories that also impedes successful reentry for people leaving incarceration. Nation Outside plans to continue their work for Fair Chance Housing legislation at the state level. But fair housing can’t wait for the legislature, so they are working to pass local fair chance housing legislation in Lansing, East Lansing, Flint, and Inkster to both provide immediate relief to people who are struggling to access housing because of a criminal record as well as to build support for a statewide policy. 4878The Fair Chance Housing Act was introduced in the House and had a hearing in the Economic Development and Small Business committee. It has not had a vote in committee yet. 
Vital Documents: The State Appellate Defender Office, Center for Employment Opportunities, and Nation Outside continue to advocate for these changes, and that the vital documents process start earlier to accommodate people who have complicated records requests.4191
The four-bill package cleared the House in June of 2023 and is awaiting action in the Senate Committee On Civil Rights, Judiciary, And Public Safety.
Voter Registration Upon Release from Prison: Even though formerly incarcerated citizens in Michigan have full ability to vote, they face barriers to participation post-incarceration. Proposed legislation would allow MDOC to register people to vote upon release from prison and require they be provided with certain voting information. 4534
Legislation to allow for automatic voter registration for people upon release from prison has been signed & enacted. HB4534, which would require voting information upon release from prison has been heard in the House Elections Committee.
Trauma Informed Peer-led reentry (TIPLR): Nation Outside is developing a groundbreaking program of peer-led reentry and laying the groundwork for it to be funded through Medicaid because previous incarceration is a social determinant of health, and is working with lawmakers and various state agencies to develop the legislative boilerplate language to move this policy forward. The FY2023-2024 budget includes $2M to pilot this program
Clean Slate Implementation: These bills further implement Clean Slate expungement laws by prohibiting employers and landlords from requiring people to disclose convictions that have been set aside.4960 
These bills have passed the house and been referred to the Senate Committee On Civil Rights, Judiciary, And Public Safety