Michigan jails fill as crime sinks and nobody seems to know why

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (center) signed an executive order earlier this year to form a 21-member task force set on reforming the state’s jail system. Pictured behind Whitmer are (from left) Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties; House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering; Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II; Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Bridge photo by Lindsay VanHulle)

It’s a riddle at the heart of Michigan’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system: How can it be that the state’s county jail population has tripled over the past 50 years even as crime rates have plunged to levels not seen in generations? 

Nobody seems to know. 

One major reason is nobody at the state level knows much about the inmates being housed in county jails, or why they are there.  

“Right now in Michigan there’s no person and no data set that can answer the question: Who’s in jail across the state, for how long, and why?,” said Terry Schuster, a project manager with the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

The vast majority of Michigan’s 83 counties have their own record-keeping systems, making it difficult to assess ‒ much less compare or change ‒ incarceration policies that may contribute to crowded jail cells.  

It’s a patchwork system that costs taxpayers roughly half a billion dollars a year.  

Gathering such information at a statewide level is a task that now falls to the new Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which meets for the first time Wednesday morning. 

The task force, formed as a result of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order in April, is a bipartisan group of politicians, public defenders, victims advocates, corrections officers and others affected by the county jail system. It is asked to recommend changes to criminal justice policy by January.

What’s the goal of the jail study?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order outlined what she hopes the task force will accomplish through its recommendations: 

  • Expand alternatives to jail
  • Reduce the number of people sent to jail, how long they stay there, and the amounts counties spend
  • Ensure “consistent, objective, and evidence-based” decisions for pretrial incarceration 
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state and county justice systems.
  • Better align policy with research.

In the meantime, the group will have its hands full gathering and making sense of research. They’ll get help from Schuster and his colleagues at Pew, a nonpartisan research organization based in Philadelphia, which will collect and analyze data from Michigan county jails in a study that Pew says is a first of its kind in the nation. 

Over the next several months, the task force will get data briefings from Pew, study variations in incarceration from county to county, and solicit testimony from the public.

Wednesday’s meeting is to be the first step in a process state officials hope will dramatically change the justice system for the better. 

“The purpose of this task force is to find out” why the trends are happening, Schuster told Bridge. “We’re not starting with the answer, we’re starting with the question.” 

Here are five criminal justice data trends Pew has already identified:

Crime rates in Michigan are at 60-year lows, but incarceration rates are three times higher.

We’re at a low point for crime in Michigan and across the country ‒ the last time crime rates were this low was in 1960. 

“You might think that when crime is high, the jail population is high, and when crime is low, the jail population is low,” Schuster said. “But we don’t actually see that one-to-one relationship in the data.”

In 1960 Michigan counties held 51 people in jail for every 100,000 residents. In 2017 ‒ with the same crime rate as 1960 ‒ Michigan counties held 163 people in jail for every 100,000 residents. 

It’s not clear what’s behind the numbers, Schuster said, but it’s likely due to changes in county or state policies ‒ exactly the kind of puzzle the state, with Pew’s help, is trying to solve. It could be that sentences have gotten harsher. Perhaps courts are more likely to punish probation violations with jail time. Or it may have to do with judges requiring cash bond.

“It’s definitely not rising crime rates,” Schuster said. “So what is it?”

Crime rates haven’t been as low as they are now in six decades. Last time crime was this low, far fewer people were in jail. (Graphic by the Pew Charitable Trusts)

Nationally, jail populations quadrupled over four decades. In Michigan, it tripled.

At the national level, that’s largely due to an increase in pretrial incarceration ‒ the number of people sitting in jail charged with a crime and waiting to go to trial.  

But in Michigan, growth in pretrial populations is only half the story: There’s also been a growth in jail inmates serving out sentences, suggesting there are either more people serving time or inmates are staying in jail longer. 

The split between what Michigan and the rest of the nation are experiencing means policymakers who want to reduce jail populations will have to consider different tactics, Schuster said. Nationwide, lawmakers may need to look at changing pretrial policies such as the bail system. Michigan may need to review both its pretrial and sentencing policies. 

Michigan counties spend three times as much on jails as they do on community and economic development.

Michigan counties collectively spend $478 million every year on jails. That includes expenses such as staff salaries, the facility’s electricity and heat, food for inmates and more. 

According to data from the Michigan Department of Treasury, that’s three times more than what counties invest in, say, community and economic development initiatives ($167 million in 2017). 

Depending on the county, those projects might include brownfield redevelopment, business development services or community programming. 

Where did the numbers come from?

Researchers at the Pew Charitable Trusts used existing data from state and federal sources to identify trends listed in this story. You can explore the data here:

Pretrial incarceration rates are rising in rural Michigan and falling in urban centers.

“We don’t have an explanation for it, but we do have data for it,” Schuster said. 

Rural counties, such as Ionia and Grand Traverse, are seeing higher rates of people being held in jail while they await trial. Urban counties like Wayne and Kent are seeing those rates fall.  

That trend also extends to the overall jail population: In 1978, 15 percent of all Michiganders in jail were held in rural counties. Since then, rural jail incarceration grew faster than urban jail incarceration. Now, more of the state’s jail inmates are being held in rural counties. In 2013, rural jails held 24 percent of all jail inmates in the state.

Over the last several decades, jail incarceration rates have risen in rural Michigan and fell in urban centers. (Graphic by the Pew Charitable Trusts)

Nationwide, people are staying in jail longer than in years past.

Arrest rates have decreased significantly around the country over the last decade, dropping 25 percent. “It’s a really big drop in arrests, it’s not tiny,” Schuster said. 

The number of jail admissions is down, too; fewer people are going to jail in the first place. 

What’s not changing: the average daily jail population. That means people are staying in jail longer than they used to. 

Explained Schuster: “You’d expect that if we’re arresting fewer people the jail population would come down, right? That’s not happening.”

The same thing may be happening in Michigan, he said, but researchers aren’t sure yet.

Whatever the task force finds could lead to real changes ‒ the task force is supported by both Democratic Gov. Whitmer and Republican leaders in the state legislature, and seems to be a continuation of bipartisan support for criminal justice legislation since the beginning of the year. 

“Criminal justice reform should never be a partisan issue,” said Republican Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield when Whitmer signed the executive order creating the project. “We need to ensure across the state of Michigan that we are not over-criminalizing our citizens, and people have real opportunities as they’re seeking to re-enter our society.”

Added Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel: “I have waited my entire career to see this kind of bipartisan support and commitment to criminal justice reform.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Frances Denny
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 10:00am

Nobody knows why the prison population has increased in the past 50 years...really? We need to pay a commission to think this through? We do know.
Save some tax payer dollars and address two items only:
1. Deinstitutionalization of mentally vulnerable people who were grossly inadequately cared for and continue to be poorly supported. And
2. Incarcerating people who committed crimes that require rehabilitation to make our communities safer and poor people who couldn’t hire lawyers that could present their best case.
Fix or significantly improve those two things, without reference two the financial interest of third parties, and our prison population would plummet.

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 10:36am

I agree with Frances. It will cost money, but mentally ill have been released onto the streets for decades because of a lack of funds. Many should either have stayed in an institution or had better treatment options when released. Pay for this now or pay for the police and jail costs later. I prefer pay for the mentally ill.
Also non-violent criminals should be hit much harder - but not in jail. Community service, mandatory rehabilitation classes, steeper fines and monitoring of their activities. There are costs to these also, but hopefully less than having them in jail.
And am I the only one who sees a contradiction in the article. If jail time in urban areas is up, doesn't that mean the "bad guys" are off the streets longer which should equate to a drop in crime. I agree it is good to have good data to come to good conclusions and the current reporting system sounds poor per the article. But this point seems obvious.
Yes, there are other factors. But if we can keep the economy strong and provide more jobs that may mean less of a temptation to break the law. When people provide for and feel better about themselves hopefully they tend more to stay on the "straight and narrow".

Robert Kruise
Tue, 07/30/2019 - 3:36pm

Better JOBS? Try encountering a cop who's district is millions of dollars in debt from lawsuits and just see how easy it is for them to lie about your driving ability!

Alexander Beaton
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 12:55pm

I agree with you. To your statement about those too poor to hire a good lawyer, I’ll take that further and say that there is a general bias against the poor that results in disproportional punishment. On the surface that is a rather obvious conclusion, but still one that I feel is worth making. The county jail in my rural corner of Michigan seems to be a turnstile for the same people (the mentally ill, severe alcoholics, other drug addicts, and those who are generally living in the margins). There is an attempt to keep the addicts out of the jails, but if / when they regress during parole, they're going to go back and sit out their original sentence.

As for the mentally ill, we are currently paying the costs in the most expensive way possible, jailing them even for petty crimes. It's both inhumane, and doesn't significantly increase public safety. It would be much healthier for everybody to treat the problems up front, rather than allow them to mix with jail and prison populations. How many of those only experience worsening mental health, until they do actual harm to others and themselves?

Judy Collins
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 5:02pm

being someone who teaches the effects of trauma I can definitely assure you that putting people in jail and prisons does impact on the trauma they have already suffered only making things worse rather than treating them in the beginning.

Jay Johnson
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 10:03am

The counties in the state need to make more money so they lock people up impose huge fines to keep the money machine rolling they are making money when no one’s in jail

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 10:08am

It may be related to the disintegration of mental health care.

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 10:25am

Maybe the reason crime rates are down, is because the people that commit crimes are in the county jail!!

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 12:47pm

Exactly Jim.

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 8:45pm


Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:06am

Come up with a different plan to house, care for and monitor the mentally ill and the prison population would plummet.
No, it's not free like just letting them loose to wander the streets, but it us cheaper than incarceration . Cutting mentak health services only costs more in the long run and destroys families.

Paul Nolan
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:17am

"It’s a riddle at the heart of Michigan’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system: How can it be that the state’s county jail population has tripled over the past 50 years even as crime rates have plunged to levels not seen in generations?

Nobody seems to know. "

Hahaha! Well, it's good to know that Fox Butterfield is alive and well in Michigan. And those practice it still have the nerve to call "journalism" a profession.


Judge David Hoo...
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 12:09pm

My experience as a circuit judge was that the sentencing, probation and parole dispositional process resulted in persons going to jail instead of prison. At the original sentence, violation of probation or violation of parole.

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 5:21pm

As a former resident of MDOC, I can assure you that isnt the case an individual who violates their parole status will be returned to the MDOC, not serve their violations in county lock ups. If they truely are interested in deciphering this issue they should really look at truth in sentencing. When Michigan adopted this initiative is when our incarceration numbers exploded. This is also when if you were convicted of a felony in this state you were assigned a prison number regardless of whether you received a prison equivalent sentence or not. Ironically when the federal government comes in an does its inmate counts twice a year which is how the amount of federal funding the state receives the county jail inmates with prison numbers are included in this census. Michigan for the past 25 yrs has been a prison state. If you screwed up with "any" kind of previous record county jail sentence just wasn't an alternative, you were going to do some kind of prison time. Michigan prisons offer minimal rehabilitation programs. This is due to lack of funding. The only rehabilitation your gonna get in our system is gonna come from within the individuals. While incarceration I started a program along with 3 other prisoners called We Stand Sincere. It dealt specifically with making ourselves ready for the obstacles they awaited us upon release. Governor Engler actually came to one of our Graduation ceremonies and granted us minimal funding which assisted us in spreading the program throughout the states numerous prisons. This program has long since been done away with due to a few of the founders reentering society an reoffending. Point I'm trying to to make is this if you want to see a drastic change in our judicial system, first reevaluate truth in sentencing, secondly, bring rehabilitation back into the fold. Make it mandatory that our brothers sisters mothers fathers sons an daughter's go through these programs. Someone commented earlier we can pay for it now or we can pay for it later. Which is cheaper and which is going to be more beneficial to all involved. Victims offenders and families of both.

Judy Collins
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 5:09pm

I have seen prison numbers issued to county inmates though they have never been in a prison.

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 12:36pm

If you build it, they will come! If you don't build it, you're forced to develop alternatives.

Otsego County didn't build a new jail, because, Otsego County voters refused to fund the building project. The county had to find alternatives to their over crowded jail.

They expedited bail/bond proceedings. Magistrates had to work a few hours weekends, but they reduced days in jail.

They developed what turned out to be a very popular Sheriff's Work Camp. It's an alternative to jail time, not particularly popular with convicts, but very popular with voters. You can see restorative justice happening, which is a satisfying experience. The convicts mow lawns, shovel snow, pick up trash, rake leaves and dozens of other very visible tasks.

The work camp is part of a day reporting program. The convict lives at home, but reports daily. If the convict doesn't have a job, then it's off to the work camp. Day reporting requires everyday substance abuse testing. It also requires attendance at classes designed to cure the problems that led to the conviction.

Local parole and probation officers make more frequent use of RANDOM drug testing. Parolees and probationers will likely get tested when they report, usually monthly, but also at random times.

A condition of parole and probation is acceptance of RANDOM residence searches. Contraband, drugs, drug paraphernalia, etc. get found.

Otsego, like pretty much every other rural county, dumps a higher percentage of their criminals into the state correction system than do urban counties.

A very successful cure for ever increasing incarceration is to stop building jails and prisons. Do that, and development of alternatives becomes inevitable.

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 3:02pm

I agree with most of this. Elimination of cash bail would go a long way to help also. The culture needs to change, particularly in prosecutor offices. High conviction rates does not mean you are a good prosecutor.

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 4:59pm

Amen to that.

Jonah 4
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 2:53pm

I suspect that many of the people who were "treated" in the State's mental health system are now in the jails around the State. When mental health facilities were closed in the 1990s ostensibly to be replaced by community mental health agencies, funding never followed. The governor at the time and the legislature closed facilities but never used the funds to give counties the opportunity to open good community mental health projects.
Wayne County is an example of what happened to mental health facilities--the hospitals in the county that provided in patient care closed. Nothing of substance replaced them.
While closing long term mental health hospitals was a good thing, the failure to provide good community alternatives was just another Michigan failure. Hospital funding just disappeared into another State pocketbook or was just eliminated and very few services were created in the community including housing for mentally ill people.

This was just a bait and switch con game by the then Governor and Legislature much like the con game played to get a State lottery--the funds were going to go to education. Yup, but then the State's general fund contribution to education was cut by whatever dollars the lottery made.

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 4:05pm

The crime rate went way up, before coming down to the lowest rates. The sentencing reform legislation, at the insistence of the voters, started putting repeat offenders in jail for much longer periods of time. They also increased penalties for a wide array of other crimes. Before this, crime was a substantial problem nearly everywhere. When you have the people committing the crimes incarcerated, then that is fewer people who can commit a crime.

Paul Nolan
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 10:32pm

Absolutely. Serious crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent and convictions, especially of repeat offenders, should result in serious sentences. And we should be clear-eyed: prison is largely about punishment and removal from society.

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Roy Gotham
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 5:38pm

This isn't rocket science. Even as general crime rates fall, serious crime arrests result in more pretrial detainees because bonds are naturally higher for more serious charges. As the state empties prisons, largely by changing the nearly mandatory sentencing guidelines, judges dealing with serious repeat property offenders, even big time drug offenders and some violent offenders, are forced to give jail sentences rather than prison sentences. It looks good on the prison stats, but the jails fill to over-flowing, especially in the rural areas where there are few available alternatives in terms of treatment and other programming. Politicians love to tout their successes in reducing the prison budget. The same politicians do very little to help counties deal with this quandary. Wake up. Only the incarcerated get free lunch, and no one would trade incarceration for the "freedom" of not paying taxes. The rest of us, yes all of us, must pay. These comments come from a retired rural circuit court judge of 25 years.

R Luczak
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 7:02pm

With all the law schools and lawyers in the state, it constantly amazes me that there are problems with the criminal justice system. Here, the fundamental problem is a lack of the database, as described in the article. Right off, how many jail beds are they talking about? It seems insane (speaking of mental problems) that those fundamental statistics about crime and punishment in Michigan are not available. How can legislators know what laws to pass or amend if they don't have these statistics for our state?

The statistics related to the mentally ill should be cross-referenced with the statistics for community mental health, ditto for registered sex offenders.

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 10:13am

No study is needed. 1. De-institutionalization of the mentally ill who are now in our jails.
2. Private prison corporations and their lobbyists.

Ben W. Washburn
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 8:10pm

It's not at all that simple. But, most of our term-limited legislators begin their terms with such simple assumptions. This initiative by the Governor is fine, but it really should engage a large portion of our sitting Legislature, because that is where some changes really need to get made. The mental health issue is important, but it still only accounts for about a third of the problem. The least expensive and most effective pre-trial deterrent is an electronic tether, by which authorities know or can recreate the exact goings-about of that previous offender. There is generally no need to hold them in jail to prevent another offense. That is a stupid expense of public funds. The exception would be in domestic dispute cases in which an offender is hell-bent on killing someone.
The more urgent need in each of our top ten urbanized counties is to create and finance a coordinating council among all of the multitude of justice system administrators. There are within each of these counties anywhere from 15 to 30 different justice system administrators, each working normally within their own very narrow silos. These include the local district and circuit courts; the local family court; the regional State Court Administrator; the State Probation Offices, who make sentence recommendations to the courts; the local Defense Bar Association; the County Prosecutor; the County Sheriff; each of the local Police Departments; each of the local alternative disposition programs, such as, the Drug Court and Release on Recognition; the Michigan Department of Corrections; the State Parole Offices, the State Police; the local mental health services providers; etc. True coordination requires resources for which none of these agencies have been provided funding. But, such analysis of the bigger picture and coordination can and would be both a big money-saver and justice system results improvement. It will indeed take a serious effort by both the Governor and both houses of our Legislature to come to an agreement and understanding that this would be a major step toward deployment of our always limited public resources. This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. It is an issue upon which at least 95% of Michiganders ought to agree, realizing that there are always at least 5% of folks who disagree with anything everyone else believes.

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 5:48pm

While yes this sounds like a great idea. The unfortunite part is that while the crime rate may be down the types of offenses are different. Do you really want an accused sex offender on the streets? They have an extremely high recitivization rate. A tether only says yes the person was there. Not what they were doing. Jail is now used because the reprogramming is better than sending them to a place with 40K others they get lost. Our system does offer reprogramming classes more so now than ever before. The fact is that the majority of offenders are either serious in nature or repeat offenders. Maybe those housed in county had a prior history of crimes. Maybe judging on the inmates I deal with on a daily basis you probably don't want them on the street. Give power back to judges, don't mandate sentences, and let those closer to the crime make decisions based case by case not all are the same. Often times agreements between offenders and prosecutors are not for conviction rates but also to keep them from getting lost in the prison system.

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 10:22am

Mental health issues are a prime cause. There are individuals that either can't find help or won't find help. They often have substance abuse problems. My husband is a retired sheriff. He addressed these issues with community mental health and elected officials numerous times noting there were individuals in his facility that needed help which his facility was not equipped to provide (there must be a valid reason to incarcerate an individual). Once he was told by mental health personnel that an individual he wanted moved to a mental health facility would actually receive better care and supervision in his local jail - but the corrections officers are not trained for mental health care. What sense does this make? What is this saying about our mental health facilities?

If we address mental health issues as we should, with treatment, medications, maybe group housing to provide supervision and a safe environment, maybe we would have happier, healthier, productive individuals. Yes, it would cost money but don't we pay now, just in a different facility? And, don't we have a moral obligation to help those in need?

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 1:16pm

duh lawmakers, its bc they are filled with buzzed driving offenders when they could just be on tethers at home! lots of non violent people in there

Fred Jones
Thu, 07/25/2019 - 1:16pm

Nobody has money for bail. More sexual assault crimes are being reported by women (thank goodness).

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 3:30pm

Wild theory. If criminals are locked up, they can't commit crimes. More criminals in jail, less crime on the streets. Shouldn't be a mystery as to why there are 3x more criminals in jail and a plummet in crime.

Ray Mailhot
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 8:51am

That is what the charts show!

Judy Collins
Thu, 07/25/2019 - 3:30pm

A couple places I would look after doing foster care for older teens is How we are labeling even those with single relationships with consenting older teens are told if you don't plead guilty we're going to send you to trial and if you lose you'll be given the max of what you would receive if you plea bargain and they pretty much guarantee you you're going to lose who wants to gamble with her life. Very little of these cases are evidence-based to begin with.
secondly I would look at the probation violations they aren't criminal in the sense that they did not go out and commit a crime but I do believe you'll find a large population are in prisons sometimes jail for a violation rather than a crime.

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 3:36pm

In addition to deinstitutionalization and for profit prisons, it's the criminal justice industrial complex. Judges used to be independent and concerned about doing justice. Now they campaign on being tough on crime. Prosecutors push to convict rather than convicting the right person. All to get re-elected.

Hertha Gast
Thu, 07/25/2019 - 8:55pm

There are several academics who have studied the shift of mental health care--particularly for those with serious mental health issues--to prisons/jails, nationally and at the state level, following the closure of inpatient mental health care facilities. I'd recommend reading work by Bernard Harcourt (numerous papers, articles and books), Anne E. Parsons: From Asylum to Prison, and Liat Ben-Moshe (editor) Disability Incarcerated. I certainly hope that members of the task force will do their homework by reading some of these.

Ben W. Washburn
Thu, 07/25/2019 - 9:59pm

I spent 13 years of my working life as the deputy director of the Detroit-Wayne County Justice Coordinating Council, from 1970 until 1983, and this was always the pre-eminent question. There were 34 members of that Council. That's how complex and disjointed our justice system IS. And that is not a bad thing. The founders of our state and federal constitution very intentionally and for very good reason designed our justice system to be a diffuse and disjointed process, to protect each of us from partisan abuse.
But, that is still no reason to not seriously question why such issues arise.
First, and yes, State cutbacks in support for our mental health system over the past 30 years has dumped thousands of mentally problem people into our "justice system" at costs which are at least 5X as expensive as actually otherwise helping these folks with coping with their personal demons. Almost everyone of us has relatives who fall within this milieu. Just get real! Learn something about the way in which our mental health system was originally engineered, and how that plan was scrapped for a fleeting political advantage.
Secondly, "build it and they will come." So, don't build it! Back 40 years ago, several upstate counties built local jails to hold not just their local needs, but to house the overload from the Wayne County Jail. They did this because the local Sheriff wanted to hire more deputies and to pay for that cost by charging Wayne County.
These days, those Sheriffs need to find a different reason to justify their local expense.
And it is not too hard to find a local rationale for this. When excess space is available, it is not hard at all to find defendants to fill it. None of these judges are especially venal , but it is hard to find a reason not to fill all of these available cells. Several of the comments on this article provide more than enough justification for any judge to make such a decision, despite the fact that it will be more create more than 5X the needed public expenditure.
Bottom Line: Think 3X before chiming-in on a gut reaction to a justice question.

Ray Mailhot
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 8:50am

The answer maybe as obvious as all the criminals are in jail and by the charts the system is working? And that answer is ignored! I would love to see the number of people in jail drop, but this is a political stunt. We already know the number is high due to drug related convictions amongst the poorest. The wealthier people have the best justice money can buy. Maybe jail is not what the people convicted of drug use need? The poorer people waiting for trial don't enjoy the same 6th amendment rights?

Judy Collins
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 4:54pm

I would like to know the stats of how many inmates are passed there early release date and the reason why. If it is due to their behavior then it is fully understandable, however, I am led to believe that many are turn down simply because classes are not completed or the system and one case that I'm aware of lost track of the inmates records because I was the one that called and brought it to their attention. If the inmates classes have not been completed then that is a system failure because they are not allowed to attend the classes until the system says they can.
Another stat I would like to see is how many inmates are in for probation violations rather than a crime.
As a taxpayer I see these two areas as being an expense that could be cut drastically with a better system management.

Sat, 07/27/2019 - 11:18am

I'm sure some of it has to do with friend of the court. That's their favorite thing to do is lock people up. How about checking into that corrupt ass system.

Tim Joseph
Sat, 07/27/2019 - 8:38pm

Haven't the laws been getting "tough(er) on crime" for the past five decades? Haven't the mandatory sentences been increased? Haven't politicians, especially conservative ones, run on "get tough" platforms for years, and haven't they made a habit of attacking their opponents as being "soft"? Where is the mystery here?

C Zudak
Sat, 07/27/2019 - 10:33pm

It would be wonderful it they could flip the numbers. Spending 3x as much on community/economic development as we do on incarceration. It seems like more and better development would help people stay out of jail.

Robert Kruise
Tue, 07/30/2019 - 3:37pm

Go figure! Courts are making millions of dollars from traffic citations and repeat offenders! Our government doesn't want to help people, they'd rather fleece us for our HARD earned income!

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 9:08pm

Could it be the jails are fuller because they plea bargain away the felony so the court systems don't become overloaded?
That's the complaint I'm hearing. Strike a plea bargain that makes the felony gun charge go away, less time in court, no prison time, shorter jail sentence...

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 11:14pm

They should start with 52-3 and the jail happy judges there.

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 9:14am

Because all of the whites and there meth

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 3:12pm

Over charging people then giving them a plea deal to there original charge and calling it a deal most people while sitting in jail get desperate and will take the deal speacial here in bay county thats why there prosecution rate is so high this place is so corrupt

C Wood
Thu, 08/22/2019 - 11:06am

Does everyone on this site accept the premise of the headline? "Michigan jails fill as crime sinks and nobody seems to know why"? Really? High incarceration numbers and low crime rate is confusing everybody? Is it really that difficult to understand that there is an inverse correlation in crime/incarceration graphs? This is similar to questioning why a city would have low crime rates while at the same time the DA has high prosecution rates and a heavy case load.

One can certainly have a rational discussion about the deterrent effect of incarceration but it's simply illogical not to grasp the obvious fact that locking criminals up decreases crime rate.

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 4:07pm

Wait, what?

More people in jail, fewer crimes committed. Hmmm...maybe because those that commit the crimes are in jail?

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 1:08pm

While I think alternatives to jail time is the key to lowering incarceration rates, it would also be beneficial in lowering the number of hardened criminals.
In the same vein, when you realize in Michigan we spend nearly a half billion a year on prison salaries, heating, electricity and food, it seems like there could be tremendous cost savings in setting up wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems on prison grounds while training inmates in the installation and perhaps maintenance of these systems. Then when they have served their time, they come out with a marketable skill in an emerging field. Another useful skill that could be learned is growing food. All of these ideas could save money - some of which could go to improving benefits to corrections officers which have been reduced significantly over the years.

Victor Fitz
Tue, 12/03/2019 - 4:53pm

No one knows why?
Actually, you simply need to ask the right people. Sheriffs, Prosecutors, Defense Attorneys and Judges. And it doesn't cost all sorts of money to figure out. A big part of the reason why the Michigan county JAIL population has increased is because Michigan has DRAMATICALLY reduced its state run prison population. From well over 50,000 in 2007 to around 38,000 currently. So, for example, if you assault someone with a dangerous weapon, you only have a 27% chance of going to state prison in Michigan. So instead of going to state prison, you get probation, with perhaps some COUNTY JAIL TIME. Which is a lot less time than if you were sent to prison. A typical prison sentence is for a year or more. A typical jail sentence is ALWAYS a year or less. So most criminals are doing a lot less time than they used to. But they are doing it in the county jails---not state prisons. The national average is 40% of felons go to state prison at their initial sentencing. In Michigan that figure is presently less than 10%. But again, they do get a probation, community programs, diversion, treatment courts and a much smaller amount of incarceration---spent in county jails.

Doesn't take a lot of money to figure this out. Not rocket science. For more information see this report: https://www.michiganprosecutor.org/files/PAAM/External/2019%20Correction...

Again, the answer is pretty easy to find. Just ask the right people.

Amy Walker
Sun, 03/01/2020 - 6:33pm

We need to bring back the good time bill! We are one of a hand full of states left in America that does not give time off for good behavior. Where is a inmates incentive to learn new ways of conducting themselves in society if there is no reward .Please look up the goodtime bill 5666 and consider signing the petition to by pass Congress (who does NOTHING but fight among each other anymore!) To help clear some of our prison over crowding