Last week’s meeting of the Criminal Justice Policy Commission (CJPC) will be it’s second to last. Despite an effort in both the Michigan and Senate to extend the commission’s mandate at the last minute, there appeared to be no desire from the legislative leadership to give the CJPC second life.
Michigan’s CJPCC was created by Public Act 465 of 2014 with a mandate to:
Collect, prepare, analyze, and disseminate information regarding state and local sentencing and proposed release policies and practices for felonies and the use of prisons and jails, collect and analyze information concerning how misdemeanor sentences and the detention of defendants pending trial affect local jails, conduct ongoing research regarding the effectiveness of the sentencing guidelines, and in cooperation with the Department of Corrections, collect, analyze, and compile data and make predictions regarding the populations and capacities of state and local correctional facilities, the impact of the sentencing guidelines and other laws, rules, and policies on those populations and capacities, and the effectiveness of efforts to reduce recidivism.
Unfortunately, the enabling legislation contained a sunset provision repealing the law automatically on Sept. 30, 2019. As a result, without legislative intervention, the commission will lose its mandate just before the end of the month.
During this last full meeting, the CJPC quickly voted to recommend a so-called “Gardener fix” to the legislature. What is this fix? In short, Michigan’s habitual offender sentencing enhancement used to only be applicable to criminal events that happened during separate incidents. That changed under the Michigan Supreme Court’s People v. Gardener decision, which allowed charges arising from the same incident to count toward the designation of “habitual offender.” The Gardener fix legislatively reverses that decision which allowed multiple convictions arising from the same criminal incident to qualify for the habitual offender enhancement.
More contentious was the attempt to get consensus on the passage of the final commission report on straddle cells. Straddle cells are convictions for which the sentencing guidelines support either a prison or an intermediate sentence. Another way of explaining them is that they are sentencing guidelines in which the lower limit of the recommended range is one year or less and the upper limit is more than eighteen months. While most of the commissioners agreed that disparities in sentencing exist, they were unable to come to a final agreement on why those disparities exist or what the best solution for those disparities might be. An agreement was made to make some modifications to the final recommendations and to reconvene only in order to take the vote to approve the final report before the end of the month.
Every commissioner was present at the meeting, and thank you’s, presents, and cupcakes were passed around before the meeting was adjourned.
Safe & Just Michigan fully supported the revitalized work of the CJPC and we are disappointed that such a great bipartisan resource will no longer be available to support the work of Michigan’s legislature.