One of the primary criticisms of the U.S. legal system is that state courts can be quick to incarcerate an individual who really does not need it. Many defendants figure out personally that they have exhibited bad judgment when breaking the law. Michigan lawmakers have also realized this is not an effective judicial policy and have made some alterations to constantly using jail as a form of retribution for criminal offenses. The state court actually has no legitimate interest in issuing unnecessary and often ridiculous imprisonment rulings just to prove a political point.
Legislative focus in the new law
The Michigan court system has often been quick to incarcerate individuals for low-level crimes, especially if they have a prior record. Many of these defendants have run afoul of the law but pose no real danger to the community. Those accused of felony drug crimes could also be released on a minimal bond in non-violent offense situations or issued probation.
Many prosecutors in Michigan request harsh penalties for certain crimes, and they often set policy on the upper end of sentencing guidelines when requesting a specific punishment. This even happens with first offenders in many cases. Those who are facing low-level drug charges could be given a lesser punishment with minimal jail time, probation, or potentially a case diversion under the new law.
Another issue the state was seeing far too often was people with minimal financial means being caught up in a cycle of inability to pay that resulted in even more fines or even incarceration for some. Establishing a state fine suspension policy was a central point being addressed with the bill.
Recommendations from the newly-formed Michigan Joint Task Force were provided for the assembly, and they responded positively. The group recommended a list of 20 reforms that were included in the legislation.