LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – House Republicans and crime victims gathered Thursday in Lansing to oppose a Democrat package of bills that could allow for those who have committed murder, rape, and domestic abuse, out of prison early by dramatically reducing their sentences.
Under house bill 4556, introduced by the Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, Kara Hope (D-Hope), those Michigan prisoners could be allowed out of prison after serving just 10 years of their sentence.
Under a section of the bill, it reads “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an incarcerated individual who has served not less than 10 years of the incarcerated individual’s sentence or sentences for any conviction or for a combination of convictions may petition the sentencing court for a reduction of any or all of the incarcerated individual’s sentences as provided under this section.”
According to House Republicans, under the bills, more than 17,000 dangerous criminals in Michigan would be eligible to request a lower sentence in the future, including more than 5,100 murderers, 1,700 criminal sexual offenders, and 1,000 armed robbers who would be immediately eligible for resentencing.
“Michiganders want public safety in our communities, but House Democrats are pushing radical, unprecedented plans to let dangerous criminals roam our neighborhoods,” Minority Leader and Representative Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) said in a statement, “This horrifying legislation disregards victims and obliterates the safety that the people of Michigan deserve.”
Nicole Beverly, a victim of domestic violence, also founded The ENOUGH Initiative, a Domestic Violence Prevention Organization, and author of “Finding Nicole” a memoir and guide for others navigating life after abuse, offered her reflections on the bill package.
“I am not against individuals who are incarcerated getting rehabilitative services,” she began, “I have loved ones who have gone through the incarceration system and I by no means that they do not deserve rehabilitative services, for lesser crimes of course the ability to earn time off of their sentences.”
She did speak to the package of bills as a survivor of domestic abuse, and advocated against them.
“However, these bills pose a danger, they are a direct threat to victims of many crimes not just domestic violence, but because I work primarily with victims of domestic violence, as a survivor of domestic violence, and stalking, and in multiple attempts by my ex-husband to hire people to kill me and my children from prison, I am going to speak most passionately about those issues.”
Founder of Facebook Page, Voices of Murder Victims, Karen Jackson also spoke out against the bill package believing it went too far in favor of criminals.
“I don’t have a problem with rehabilitation within the prison system,” Jackson said, “I don’t mind what they do as long as they don’t open the door and let them out. I want my son’s killer kept in prison for life. What he does while he’s in there, what programs are available to him so be it, that’s my compromise. Draw the line at violent crime and murder, let us co-victims have voice, stop re-victimizing us, stop retraumatizing us. Spend your time trying to figure out ways to prevent the violence in the first place, instead of coming along now trying to put band aids on cancer.”
Survivor of sex trafficking and domestic assault, Ravone Fields, spoke against the package as a victim, and who has a family member in prison.
“This bill is kind of hard for me because I come from two sides of the fence,” Fields said, “I have a brother who is incarcerated who was sentenced to 10 years, and I miss him and would love for him to be able to come home. Though I understand his conduct has not been great in prison and I honestly don’t believe he earned the right to come home even after his 10 years.”
She also emphasized the importance of places like “Safe House” in Washtenaw County which provide a home for victims who must flee their attackers and homes, and how these places ought to be given better funding and expanded.
“Right now our shelter in the county, Safe House, is not accepting victims, they are only housing a few victims at a time if that, meaning three to five at most,” Fields said, “It’s very frightening to think that people who possibly get out and there is not even a safe shelter or safe place for victims to go if they do need that resource.”
Former Law Enforcement Officer for more than two decades and Representative Mike Harris (R-Clarkston) opposed the bills for several reasons including the fact that over the past decade Michigan has let out several thousand inmates and this would be a “slap in the face” to victims and law enforcement
“I think the focus really needs to be on the victims in this,” he continued “Our prison population used to be up in the 50,000 mark and we’ve reduced it greatly, and I give that credit not only to law enforcement but some of the rehabilitative process that we’ve had in prisons that have kept people from coming back but we should not be rewarding the people that victimized out communities and send them back to the streets to continue doing that.”
The panel also criticized a provision that would allow those with a myriad of health conditions to be considered first among inmates for consideration of possible release.
“If the incarcerated individual has one or more medical conditions that make them more likely to contract an illness or disease, then essentially the presumption is they get a quicker hearing and the presumption is that they should be released,” Criminal Justice Committee Minority Leader and Representative Graham Filler (R-St. Johns) said during the press conference.
Some of the diseases listed included cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, Hepatitis C, and it says “not limited to” according to House Minority Leader Hall. Beverly also acknowledged that her former husband has asthma and could then qualify for a quicker hearing under the legislation.