Michigan has a longer length of stay for people in prison than any other state. The Pew Center on the States study found that in 2009, Michigan prisoners served nearly 17 months more than average. According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, in 2016 the average minimum sentence was 9.9 years (a figure which does not include the people serving life sentences).
One strategy to help reduce our long length of prison stay could be to restore “good time.” “Good time” is a system that rewards incarcerated people for good behavior in prison by reducing their minimum sentence every month they serve without a misconduct.
In February, Representatives Martin Howrylak (R – District 41) and David LaGrand, (D – District 75) introduced House Bills 5665, 5666, and 5667, which seek to reinstate “good time.” CAPPS supports the restoration of “good time” as a policy matter and applauds Reps. Howrylak and LaGrand for introducing this legislation. However, we think it is important to set expectations about their likelihood of passage, as we have heard quite a bit of misinformation circulating about this issue.
We are sorry to report that it is unlikely these bills will be scheduled for a hearing in committee or receive further attention from the Legislature. The problem is two-fold:
- Because “good time” was eliminated by a ballot initiative, a ¾ vote of both Houses of the Legislature is necessary to restore it (see MI Const. Art. II, sec. 9), which is very difficult to achieve; and
- These bills do not have the political support they need from House or Senate leadership, or key interest groups, such as the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan or the Office of the Attorney General.
The bills do help to generate a much-needed discussion about how best to provide good incentives for incarcerated people and reduce Michigan’s extremely long average prison length of stay. One strategy could be reinstating the disciplinary credit system that was eliminated in 1998. This could also be done in combination with an “earned credits” system that rewards completion of programming, educational and vocational programs.
While these bills are not likely to move forward, they provide a good opportunity for public and legislator education that could increase political support for similar policies in the long term.
Download>> Fact Sheet: The “Good Time” Bills