On April 25, Rep. Klint Kesto (R-District 39), House of Representatives Law and Justice Committee chair, took testimony from national leaders calling for continued criminal justice reforms and investment in services that prevent crime and help crime survivors heal.
Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel of Koch Industries, called on Michigan to continue its efforts to reduce the prison population. He noted that conservatives support policies that are “more fair, effective and just.”Holden stated:
At the end of the day the phrases tough on crime and soft and crime are largely meaningless. We need to be “smart on crime and soft on taxpayers” through data-driven, evidence-based solutions and not . . . fear and emotion.
Marc Levin, policy director of Right on Crime, a national organization of conservative leaders and lawmakers supporting federal and state criminal justice reform, encouraged lawmakers to rethink parole policies. He supported previous efforts to release low-risk people serving terms of years after they had served their sentences, saying:
There has to be a substantial and compelling interest to keep somebody after they have served their minimum (sentences). Currently the parole board . . . continues to keep a number of those people behind bars, even if they are shown to be at a very low risk of recidivating.
The Committee also heard from crime survivors. Lenore Anderson, president of Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ), a national organization of crime survivors (and a CAPPS partner), discussed the need for a balanced approach to criminal justice, that prioritizes prevention, rehabilitation, and accountability. She emphasized that:
Outdated and lopsided public safety strategies that focused on mostly on lengthy sentences and increased incarceration have failed to provide an effective approach to public safety.
Anderson urged the Committee to pursue a criminal justice system “where we support crime victims, address the drivers of crime and reduce recidivism.”
She testified about findings of an Alliance for Safety and Justice national survey. The survey found that the overwhelming majority of crime survivors support investments in treatment, rehabilitation, and services to help crimes survivors heal. The survey found,
Six in 10 victims prefer shorter prison sentences and more spending on prevention and rehabilitation rather than prison sentences that keep people incarcerated for as long as possible.
Dionne Wilson, ASJ national crime survivor advocate, provided gripping testimony about her experience as the widow of a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty. She shared her personal journey of healing and learning which led her to supporting new safety priorities over tough on crime policies, and concluded by saying:
The whole tough on crime era has failed . . . What is wrong is ignoring the results of that and staying with the status quo. Real leadership looks like acknowledging what has failed and changing it. It is ok to get it wrong, as along as when we realize it we take steps to get it right.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Rep. Kesto reiterated Holden’s phrase, “we want to be smart on crime and soft on taxpayers” and said he would be convening additional testimony in future hearings about additional reforms.