Facts and Policy Reforms for Michigan
Like most states, Michigan’s prison population has exploded in recent decades.
In 2016, 41,122 people were imprisoned in Michigan, nearly tripling the prison population since 1980. The state had the seventh highest correctional control rate in the country as of 2015.
‘Non-assaultive’ offenses, including property and public order convictions, accounted for 42 percent of prison admissions in Michigan in 2016. Violations of community supervision programs such as parole are a common driver of prison admissions. Although the number of prison admissions for parole violations has decreased since 2006, the proportion of parole revocations that resulted from technical violations remained high, at 64 percent in 2016. These admissions include technical violations for things that wouldn’t be illegal under normal circumstances, such as missing a parole appointment.
Laws that trigger mandatory sentences, such as those for felony firearm possession, also drive up the prison population in Michigan. In 2012, Michigan ranked first in a survey of the average length of imprisonment in 34 states.
Unsurprisingly, Michigan’s mass incarceration crisis has had an enormous impact on people of color, especially Black people, who are incarcerated at nearly seven times the rate of whites. Though Black people constituted just 14 percent of the state’s population in 2014, they made up 54 percent of the prison population. Ending mass incarceration is a critical – although insufficient – step toward addressing racial disparities in Michigan’s criminal justice system.
Women are also being sent to prison in Michigan at alarming rates. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of women imprisoned in Michigan increased by 3 percent, while the number of men imprisoned decreased by 21 percent over the same time period.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Michigan can dramatically reduce its prison and jail populations by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
- Reforming the cash bail system.
- Implementing diversion programs for Michiganders with mental health needs and/or substance use disorders.
- Ending the practice of prosecuting children in adult courts.
- Reclassifying more lower-level felony offenses, such as property crimes and drug possession, as misdemeanors.
- Passing a comprehensive medical parole bill.
If Michigan were to follow these and other reforms outlined in this Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, by 2025 it could have 23,451 fewer people would be incarcerated in the state’s prison system, saving the state $1,863,491,702 that could be spent on schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of Michigan’s prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.