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Opinion | Support the Safer Michigan Act to help ex-prisoners succeed

As leaders in the faith community, we understand our primary role is to serve. We serve the individuals in our congregations, their families and the community. We are called to walk alongside those who have been hurt by others. And because of this, we have seen first-hand the pain and trauma of crime victims.

Keith den Hollander and Rev. Richard R. White III
Keith den Hollander is the national field director for the Christian Coalition. The Rev. Richard R. White III is president of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity.

We have seen the brokenness of victims and their families. We see the brokenness of those who do harm and the damage it brings to their family and community. 

As faith leaders, we also stand for justice for all and we operate on the notion that rehabilitation is possible. We understand that faith and hard work can change the hearts, minds and souls of the convicted to be better once released. Therefore, we must support programs that will assist those who desire to change their ways and write new chapters in their lives.  

Our faith compels us to see the good in everyone who God has created, and we understand that oftentimes one needs to know that someone believes in their potential for change. This is at the heart of our support for the Safer Michigan Act, HB 4450-4453

We are committed to helping victims, their families and everyone who is impacted by crime. Healing, redemption and rehabilitation must be prioritized in efforts to keep our communities safe. Accountability and taking responsibility for one's actions now and in the future helps everyone move forward. It helps to stop cycles of victimization that we see everyday. 

The Safer Michigan Act is a public safety measure that combats crime through rehabilitation because it provides people in prison incentives to participate in programs like continuing education, workforce training, counseling and other programs that are proven to reduce recidivism. 

More than 85 percent of people in our prisons are returning home – including everyone who would be eligible for these incentives. That means thousands of people are ready to come back, seeking to heal and better themselves. They will return to their families and our communities. They will be our neighbors and friends, people who will be interacting with our own loved ones. 

What do we want that to look like? 

For those of us who deal with this up close, we want to see people come back to us better and with a great chance at success in the future. We want to see them thriving as they work good jobs to provide for their families and give back. They will have the tools to live fulfilling lives so that they can serve as examples for others in their communities as well. 

More than 30 states currently offer similar incentives for rehabilitation programs, and a 2021 report found these policies made a difference. States like Minnesota saw up to a 20 percent drop in recidivism among those who participated in job and educational programs. They were more likely to find a job, and less likely to commit crimes again. Meanwhile, states saved millions of dollars to spend elsewhere, with Pennsylvania saving over $400 million. 

The Safer Michigan Act opens the door for those returning to re-enter our communities in a way that is productive and safe. It allows them to redeem themselves and turn their lives around, while helping to strengthen our communities. It makes us safer, and helps to put an end to cycles of crime. 

We urge the Michigan House and Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the governor’s desk. This is a service to our communities, and will bring us one step closer to the promise of a safer Michigan for all.  

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