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Fewer people would go to jail for minor offenses, under bills before Gov. Whitmer

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Bills waiting for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s signature would send fewer people to jail for minor infractions such as driving on a suspended license or a technical violation of a probation order.

The bills were recommended by a task force co-chaired by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack.

She says the current system punishes people who don’t pose a threat to public safety, and makes it less likely they’ll get their lives in order.

“They’re not going to make it to work. They might lose their job. They’re not going to be able to, therefore, pay their bills. They could lose their housing. And that’s not sensible, right? If somebody is not a risk to public safety, jail is not the best place for them.”

McCormack says Michigan’s jail populations have tripled over the past 40 years, which is also more expensive for taxpayers.

The legislation makes it easier for judges to send offenders to diversion programs by eliminating many mandatory jail sentences.

McCormack says judges would still have the option of sending offenders to jail if they refuse to complete diversion programs, pay fines, or comply with other court orders.