More than 70 people were in attendance for the second meeting of the Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration which was held in Traverse City on Aug. 23, 2019.
The Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration was created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield in order to, “craft recommendations for statewide policy and budgetary changes grounded in data, research, and fundamental constitutional principles.” Ultimately, the desired outcome is for those recommendations to be implemented in order to make Michigan a national leader in justice system reform.
The meeting was broken up into two sessions. During the morning session, three experts testified about different aspects of bail. In the afternoon session, the task force opened the floor to several hours of public testimony.
The first speaker during the morning session was Timothy Schnacke. Schnacke is currently the director of the Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices in Colorado, an organization focused entirely on bail reform, and is a criminal justice systems analyst with more than 30 years of experience. He talked about the history of bail and how to best accomplish bail reform.
Andrea Woods, a staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project specializing in bail, was the second speaker of the morning. Woods presented an overview of the recent cases and case law surrounding bail and bail reform around the country.
The final speaker was Jennifer E. Copp a professor who holds a doctorate in sociology and teaches at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. Copp’s presentation was about the state of the research around bail and issues of pretrial incarceration.
Far more than 20 people offered public testimony during the afternoon session. Safe & Just Michigan submitted written and oral testimony on three issues. First, we called for Michigan to alter it’s “Pay To Stay” rules, which allow every person in Michigan county jails to be charged up to $60 a day throughout their time incarcerated. Second, we supported bail reform efforts in Michigan and answered many of the arguments for cash bail. Finally, we offered oral testimony calling for attention to be paid to mental health care in our county jails throughout the state.
Throughout the public testimony, the need for more and better mental health care in our jails was a common theme. Other issues raised by individuals and activists included calls to improve the treatment of women in our jails, the treatment of veterans in jails, and the need to end cash bail. Several people shared stories from directly impacted people. Many others shared their own stories as a formerly incarcerated person or from their position as a family member or loved one of an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated person. Testimony was also provided by several law enforcement officers, including the prosecutor and an assistant prosecutor from Grand Traverse County. Several ACLU attorneys and some jail administrators also testified.
The event was held in Kirkbride Hall in Traverse City, which is part of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a community built from a closed state hospital.
~ Josh Hoe