LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday approved a bipartisan criminal justice package that seeks to reform the entire system by providing resources that would assist in reducing recidivism rates and helping prisoners transition back into society.

The multi-bill package is largely concentrated on rehabilitating prisoners and encouraging volunteer programs that provide such services. Legislators and the law enforcement community dedicated so much of their time in this area because properly rehabilitating prisoners allows them a greater chance of success as they make their transition out of the system, while also reducing the chance that they will return. This directly leads to reduced taxpayer costs and recidivism rates.

“A majority of the people currently in the prison system are low-level offenders that will one day be released,” said Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy. “We need to work on giving these people, many of whom made a terrible mistake and wish to correct it and move on, the resources they need to successfully integrate back into society.”

The bills also address various issues concerning prisoners and their families and individuals on probation or parole.

Reforms include ways to expedite medical commutation hearings, limiting the revocation time that a probation violator would serve for technical violations, allowing judges to shorten a probation term as a result of good behavior and offering an incentive to probation agents and supervisors to keep probationers on a good path.

The operating premise of our criminal justice system is that serving time in prison and having one’s freedoms removed will deter them from doing something that could send them back. Knollenberg says that’s not what we’re seeing.

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is people learning how to be career criminals and increased recidivism rates,” he said. “Continuing to simply lock people up is why we’re seeing our state’s prison system grow more overcrowded every day. That not only increases taxpayer costs, but also takes away resources from the most dangerous inmates. We need to encourage people to improve themselves and show them that a life of crime does not pay off.”

Snyder signed Senate Bills 5-7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15 and 17-24. SBs 11 and 50 were vetoed.

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