criminal justice reform | Michigan Radio

criminal justice reform


The Michigan Supreme Court hopes a new initiative called "Justice for All" will make it easier for people to handle their own cases in civil court, if they can't afford an attorney.

Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra is chair of a new commission that will make recommendations.

He says one needed change is cultural, because judges and attorneys in civil courts don't always treat people without lawyers with dignity and respect.

Hands gripping jail cell bars

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bills into law Monday that make dramatic changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

The new laws will make it easier to clear the records of people who committed crimes as juveniles or were found guilty of low-level offenses.

The package also repeals laws that can stop people with records from being certified in many professions.

Hands gripping jail cell bars

Michigan lawmakers passed numerous bills in 2020 to make the state's justice system more fair and rational. The new laws are the result of a bipartisan criminal justice reform task force created by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year.

Whitmer signs “Clean Slate” criminal justice package

Oct 12, 2020
rollingroscoe / Morguefile

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a sweeping package of bills that will allow thousands to expunge their criminal records after they’ve served their sentences.

The legislation enables thousands of people who’ve been denied housing, employment and other opportunities because of past criminal convictions a chance to clear their records.


The ACLU of Michigan is launching a campaign to hold prosecutors responsible for inequities in the criminal justice system.

The group says prosecutors are the single most powerful elected individuals who decide who gets incarcerated, and for how long.

rollingroscoe / Morguefile

Wayne County is in the middle of an effort to reduce its jail population, and it’s just received some early data to help guide that effort.

The county is teaming up with the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice to figure out who goes to jail, and who might not need to be there.

Whiskey Point, at the west end of the harbor at Beaver Island.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, we hear the latest from Lansing after Governor Whitmer met with top Republican leaders in the state Legislature. Plus, what Michigan can learn from Norway’s prison and mental health systems. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers says it’s time to change state law and let more people expunge their criminal records.

Current state law only allows people convicted of certain offenses to expunge one felony or two misdemeanors. Lawmakers say that’s too narrow, and keeps too many people from really getting a second chance—especially when it comes to getting a job.

Photo inside a prison.

Hundreds of young men in Michigan say they were sexually assaulted while serving time in adult prisons when they were still teenagers. The state's Department of Corrections, they allege in a class action lawsuit, failed to provide them with adequate protection. 

Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court cleared the legal path for these men to sue the state of Michigan for damages.

A police car seen through the side mirror on a car.
Craig Finlay / Creative Commons

There are roughly 50,000 people in Michigan who have been convicted of cannabis-related crimes. Now that voters have legalized recreational marijuana, advocates are working to get those convictions cleared.

That same process began in California after voters legalized recreational cannabis there in 2016. We talk to Capital Public Radio reporter Scott Rodd about what Michigan might learn from California's experience. 

bail bonds
Thomas Hawk / FLICKR -

One of the core philosophies of U.S. criminal law is the presumption of innocence, that defendants charged with crimes are innocent until proven guilty.