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Jail alternatives waiting on Whitmer signature

Jail Cell by abardwell is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

There are 20 bills awaiting Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s signature that would constitute the state’s biggest criminal justice overhaul in decades. The goal is to reduce the number of people sent to jail for low-level offenses.

Traffic offenses, mostly driving without a valid license, are the most common transgressions that send people to jail. 

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack co-chaired the task force that recommended these changes. She says automatic jail time can disrupt lives, family time, and the ability to hold a job. 

“Probation, fines, community service are going to be appropriate for a lot of these low-level crimes.”

McCormack says there are also still too many people in jails with mental health issues and substance abuse problems. She says too many people are still held only because they can’t make bail. She says she hopes the next Legislature will tackle more of the recommendations to address those problems once it gavels in next year.