Approximately 40 people attended Safe & Just Michigan’s Detroit Community Meeting at the Nazarene Baptist Church on Saturday, July 14, and each had their own reason for being there.
Some were recently released from long prison stays, including at least one former juvenile lifer who had been released last year after 42 years in prison. Another man had been home from prison for less than two weeks after more than 40 years of incarceration — he was joined by his brother, who was taking time off from his work in Wisconsin to help him get settled in his new life at home.
Others were family members of people who were either currently serving prison sentences or who had prior experiences with the criminal justice system, and who wanted to know how to better support their loved ones. Yet others were advocates — attorneys, pastors, advocates and counselors — looking for updates on criminal justice reform legislation, hoping to partner with other organizations working for reform and offering to help the formerly incarcerated and their families.
The meeting was the first in a series Safe & Just Michigan will be hosting to provide updates on legislation that could improve Michigan’s criminal justice system, to give the community an opportunity to voice their opinions and find answers to their questions and to share the expertise of our partner organizations with meeting attendees.
At the Detroit meeting, Safe & Just Michigan Executive Director Laura Sager and Outreach Director Troy Rienstra presented a legislative update on initiatives such as medically frail parole, objective parole and Clean Slate legislation that would automatically expunge criminal records of certain offenses.
Sager polled attendees on further steps they’d be willing to take to build a coalition and gather momentum to bring about criminal justice reform in Michigan. Participants voice broad support for all suggestions, including regular monthly meetings, housing advocacy, training on effective communicating about proposed reforms and other ideas.
Participants then had an opportunity to take part in one of three workshops offered by event co-sponsors, including the American Friends Service Committee Michigan Criminal Justice Program (on parole preparation); Nation Outside (on re-entry); and the State Appellate Defenders Office (on knowing your rights during police encounters). Other event co-sponsors include Luck Inc. Solutions, Michigan Faith in Action, RecoveryPark and Still Standing Against Domestic Violence. We are grateful for the expertise and partnership of our event co-sponsors.
Further community events will be scheduled to build on the momentum started at Saturday’s meeting. Additional details will be available on our website at https://www.safeandjustmi.org/take-action/events/.