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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Bills to ease jail overcrowding, end fines that poor can't afford, pass State Senate

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The Michigan state Senate has passed several bills to make changes to the state's criminal justice system.

The bipartisan bills aim to prevent low income offenders from being trapped in a spiral of fines and jail time for what are often misdemeanor offenses.

The bills stem from a task force established by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year, to recommend legislation to make Michigan's criminal justice system more fair for low income offenders. The suggested reforms are also intended to relieve overcrowding and costs for jails, so they're not housing so many people for less serious crimes.  

The bills were introduced by Democratic state Senator Sylvia Santana and Republican state Senator Roger Victory.

One bill passed would allow police officers to issue appearance tickets for some lower level crimes instead of arresting the offenders and taking them before a magistrate.

Another bill says judges couldn't impose extra jail time for people who can't afford to pay the fines imposed for their original crimes, and another bill allows judges to impose either a fine, or a prison sentence for some crimes, rather than being required to impose both. 

Another bill could shorten some offenders' probation periods.

The bills now advance to the state House of Representatives.

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