The stage is being set for significant criminal justice reform in Michigan.

At a joint press conference this Wednesday Governor Whitmer signed an executive order creating the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. The creation of this bipartisan task force comes as figures reveal the Great Lake State’s jail population tripling over the last three decades despite there being a steep decline in crime rates over the last 50 years.

A primary issue with the state’s current criminal justice system is that it lacks the statewide data and oversight needed for statewide jail and pretrial reform, as each county (83 total) collects and stores data differently. Thus, it’s extremely difficult to track who is in jail, for how long, and why.

“The fact is that we need to take a comprehensive look at the state of our criminal justice system because the status quo is not working for victims, the accused, and those convicted of crimes,” Gov. Whitmer said. “That’s why it’s so important to launch this bipartisan task force and ensure that the right people have a seat at the table to find real solutions to real problems in the criminal justice system.”

The bipartisan task force is comprised of 21 members— lawmakers, attorneys, judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement. — and co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.

The Detroit News covered the announcement, adding: “The Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration will be supported by data and policy specialists from the Pew Charitable Trusts… Pew’s contribution to the project amounts to roughly $1 million, which is expected to cover the entirety of the effort.”

So taxpayers will not be asked to take up costs for the effort.

In the 2020 legislative session, the task force with share a number of recommendations based on its findings for the legislature to consider on how to safely reduce incarceration and recidivism rates statewide such as jail alternatives, better pretrial decision making, length of stay reductions etc.

The mission of the task force is not only supported by the governor, it’s also supported by other state leaders and prominent state groups both Democrat and Republican.

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, the Michigan Association of Counties Director Steve Currie, and Michigan Sheriffs Association Director Blaine Koops all delivered remarks in support of criminal justice reform at the press conference and made clear to voters that there are more logical and effective ways to address crime, while still keeping everyone safe.

“Criminal justice reform should never be a partisan issue. Early in the House of Representatives this year I stood with Attorney General Dana Nessel in showing that we can work together on real reforms. We need to ensure across the state of Michigan that we are not over criminalizing our citizens and people have real opportunities as their seeking to re-enter our society,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

This task force will identify commonsense reforms that will not only improve community safety but also ensures prisoners, when they are released, will be productive members of society. That cannot happen without dedication and time. Michiganians should be proud to know that their state is headed in the right direction for criminal justice reform.