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Legislative Update: Corrections Reform Bill a Right Step for Michigan Business

As a proponent of comprehensive criminal justice reform, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s government relations team is working with lawmakers to advocate for the passage of House Bill 5377. The bill will reduce state spending on corrections by safely reducing the size of Michigan’s prison population.

This week, the Chamber testified in front of the House Law and Justice Committee, urging the committee to support the reform and report it to the full House of Representatives. More than a decade ago, the Chamber identified corrections as a top legislative priority due to its impact on state budget decisions – taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on creating a successful business environment. The Chamber and Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter of support for HB 5377 to state Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Wixom), chairman of the Law and Justice Committee, on behalf of members. Read the full letter below:

February 6, 2018

The Honorable Klint Kesto
Chairman, Law and Justice Committee
Anderson House Office Building
Lansing, MI 48933

Representative Kesto,

We write today on behalf of our members in support of House Bill 5377, a needed reform that will help move Michigan towards being smarter on crime, and softer on taxpayers. Over a decade ago the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Grand Rapids Chamber both correctly identified Corrections as an area that is strongly driving state budget decisions, and have worked together in support of solutions like this one. Our organizations also share a laser focus on the talent pipeline in Michigan, and we strive to ensure that our members have access to qualified individuals. Formerly incarcerated individuals offer an opportunity to meet the talent needs across the state.

We have been gratified to see recent bipartisan efforts to reform Michigan’s corrections system. Considering Michigan appropriates nearly 20% of our state budget on corrections, these continued solutions have been strongly welcomed. Of the two billion Michigan taxpayers spend annually on corrections, millions are spent on the continued incarceration of parole-eligible low-risk prisoners. These people can safely join the workforce and fill talent gaps for in-demand jobs, and tax dollars would be better spent on roads, schools, job training, and other components of a successful business climate.

Michigan’s large prison population is partially driven by the fact that on average, prisoners in Michigan serve far longer terms than those in other states. One reason is that our parole board keeps too many people locked up beyond the time they are first eligible for release. House Bill 5377 simply defines those “objective and compelling reasons” that the parole board is already required to use to deny parole. The savings from this reform could be invested in community-based programs for parolees, mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and many other services that provide value to our members and the state as a whole.

Our members talk a lot about making government smarter and more efficient. This reform is an opportunity to do just that.

Sincerely,

Brad Williams
Vice President, Government Relations
Detroit Regional Chamber

Andy Johnston
Vice President, Government Relations
Grand Rapids Chamber