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House Judiciary Committee hears testimony on expanding access to specialty treatment courts

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A bill package that would expand access to specialty treatment courts received a hearing Tuesday before the Michigan House Judiciary Committee.

Those courts oversee extra services like counseling or drug treatment for people dealing with addiction or mental health issues.

The bills would give violent offenders or people who commit a new felony a way to keep their access to a specialty treatment court.

State Rep. David LaGrand (R-Grand Rapids) is among the sponsors. He said the bills wouldn’t give people an automatic second chance if they break the law.

“They’re going to look at that felony and ask all those questions. Is this an indicator that you’re not cooperating, you’re not proceeding, you’re not getting the help you need? If everybody sitting around the table — the judge and the prosecutor whose job it is to enforce the law — says, ‘Let’s keep them in the program,’ that’s the proposal,” LaGrand said.

During questioning, Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) said he was skeptical of whether people who committed another offense were deserving of the chance to stay in treatment court.

“They were convicted of felonies. And so, we can look at them and say, ‘Oh, that’s a sympathetic situation.’ The judge clearly didn’t think so. They convicted them of a felony. If we want to go back and look at the law and say, ‘Hey, maybe some of these things shouldn’t be felonies,’ I think that’s a different discussion,” Johnson said.

Other lawmakers questioned how much weight the bipartisan package would place on the wishes of crime survivors when it comes to the future of repeat offenders.

Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Detroit) said the bills would still give crime victims a say in whether an offender has access to that alternate route.

“There’s no decision that a prosecutor makes without consulting with the victim. We have victim’s advocates for that very reason. We consult with victims before we even make an offer. And that’s for specialty court or any other — any other offer that we’re going to make,” Yancey told the committee.

Another bill in the package would amend the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act to address possible inconsistencies between that law and the way specialty courts work.

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