After nearly 45 years working on criminal justice issues, it is time for me to step aside. But I’m grateful to have been part of the movement to undo the excesses that bloated our prison population and caused so much pain and waste. I’m grateful for my caring, dedicated, enormously competent co-workers at CAPPS, our patient and ever-supportive board of directors, and the colleagues I have come to know and appreciate at many other organizations. And I am grateful for the trust and faith so many prisoners and their families have put in our efforts.
When we started CAPPS in 2000, we made numerous proposals for reducing the prisoner population. We worked hard to back them up with research. But just being rational, fair and cost-effective is not enough to get criminal justice reforms enacted. It takes persistent public education and legislative persuasion, both of which are complicated by the emotions raised whenever crime is discussed and the turnover among legislators caused by term limits. Today, many of those proposals have yet to be adopted while important new ones have been added to the mix. But the conversation has changed dramatically, both nationally and in Michigan. Ideas once dismissed as radical are now being seriously considered. The basic notion that taxpayer dollars can be spent on better things than incarcerating people who present no threat to public safety has gone mainstream.
CAPPS has been nothing if not persistent. We’ve pushed the envelope on ideas before they became widely discussed. We have tried to be realistic about making change incrementally without ever giving up basic principles. We have fiercely guarded the integrity of our work in order to maintain our credibility. There is still an enormous amount to be done. But I believe that our efforts contributed to changing the conversation in Michigan. And I’m sure that under Laura’s leadership those efforts will continue and be increasingly effective.