Safe & Just Michigan (SJM) was launched in 2018 after the growth and hard work of the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS).

CAPPS was founded in 2000 when Barbara Levine and other concerned state residents including Laura Sager, CAPPS executive director since 2013, decided an organization was needed to identify and change laws that resulted in the increase in Michigan’s prison population.

For 20 years, CAPPS pursued reform strategies built on the research of founder Barbara Levine. The evidence-based research played a pivotal role in the state and national debate on effective approaches to public safety and over reliance on incarceration. CAPPS served as a regular source of information for the media, policy makers, national, and state organizations.

CAPPS’s advocacy won significant parole reform and successfully stopped legislation and corrections spending initiatives that would have increased the prison population, with no public safety payoff.

CAPPS’s staff participated in numerous policy and stakeholder collaborations and developed strong relationships with diverse communities and stakeholders. CAPPS’s media, community outreach and education programs educated the public and built a very broad base of bipartisan support.

This important work over the better part of two decades laid the perfect foundation to advance broader reforms to build a safe and thriving Michigan.

In 2017, we decided it was time for a new name that more clearly conveyed our vision and mission – increasing public investments in community safety and well-being and reducing wasteful corrections spending – as well as our values. In 2018, Safe & Just Michigan launched and continues to build on the CAPPS legacy.

Barbara Levine, CAPPS founder

A member of the Michigan Bar since 1974, Levine received her Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Michigan. She served as a member of the Prisons and Corrections Section and Standing Committee on Character and Fitness of the State Bar of Michigan. She also served for many years on the board of Prison Legal Services of Michigan and was formerly the chair.

She served as a Commissioner for the Michigan Supreme Court until 1985, when she became the first administrator of the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System (MAACS). In that capacity, she trained lawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants on appeal, oversaw the appointment process, enforced minimum performance standards, and worked to obtain improved funding for indigent defense services. In 2015, Governor Rick Snyder appointed her to the Criminal Justice Policy Commission.