We are a collaborative of expert organizations in Michigan who believe in leaving nobody behind when it comes to criminal justice reform. An enormous percentage of people in Michigan’s prisons will one day return home to their communities, and how they return is critical to public safety, human dignity, and protecting human rights. Reserving reform for people with low-level, non-violent charges is counterproductive and almost always ensures people who served time for serious offenses come home without the tools or support necessary to ensure successful reintegration back into their communities.

Traditional stakeholders in the criminal justice system (prosecutors, sheriffs, judges, police associations, and other law enforcement bodies) share our desire for the protection of public safety but often insist on more restrictive policies. Too often, the result means reform legislation gets watered-down in ways that are based on anecdotes and politics instead of on the available public policy research.

In the criminal justice reform landscape, many evidence-based and comprehensive efforts have been negatively impacted by hostile lobbies who are wed to the old tough on crime rhetoric of years past. Carving out crime categories to appease stakeholders is a negotiating tactic that has gained traction in recent criminal justice work across the country. Recently groups from across the political spectrum have started to work together to seriously address the wide-spectrum of reform concerns including systemic racism, inequality, and human rights.

As a collaborative committed to deeply challenging all that leads to mass incarceration, mass imprisonment, and continued state control and surveillance after incarceration, we commit to collectively addressing the practice of carving out crime categories in the negotiation of policies, procedures, and practices. Collaborative member organizations will challenge this practice in both public and private forums. We will work from the overarching value of inclusion.

We know that we cannot fully and meaningfully address mass incarceration, by avoiding harder cases. We understand the nuances and complicated social factors related to violent harms in communities like murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and sexual violence. We do not believe that a justice system should be rooted in retributive practices. We believe not only in the possibility for individuals to change, but also hold the values of redemption, transformation, and accountability at the center of our work to end mass incarceration.

We commit to seeking the, often undervalued, input of people who are or have been incarcerated or are under state control when working with power holders on the creation of policies, procedures, and practices. In doing so we enter such space with a wide net. We refuse to reflexively sign-on to policies, procedures, or practices that exclude categories of people based on offense type simply for expediency.

At a minimum, we, as a collaborative, will insist stakeholders should have evidence-based impact statements for any and all suggested carve-outs going forward. We also recognize that carve-outs have been used and shaped existing laws. We will work to make sure the principles of this document are applied retroactively to legislation that left people out.