(Thursday - April 01, 2021) - A new Michigan
law, which takes effect today (Thursday), will result in many fewer
people being hauled off to jail for minor, non-violent offenses.
The new bi-partisan law is the result of recommendations made by the
Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. The task
force was charged with proposing ways by which the State's local jail
population can be reduced, thus also reducing costs.
previous law, police officers had discretion in whether to issue a
citation to appear in court, or to make a physical arrest, which results
in incarceration. Police had that discretion in any non-violent
situation where the penalty would be punishable to up to 93 days in
Under the new law, most misdemeanors and ordinance
violations which carry a penalty of up to one year in jail are eligible
for a citation, rather than incarceration.
There will be
situations which would not qualify for a citation, resulting in an
arrest. These include serious misdemeanors, assaultive crimes, and
offenses involving domestic violence.
Officers will also have the
discretion to make a physical arrest for other reasons that the officer
deems "reasonable." However, these reasons will need to be documented to
the court, in order to justify such an arrest.
The law also stipulates situations in which an
arrest will be justified:
When as subject refuses to follow an officer's instructions.
When someone doesn't provide identification.
If there's a likelihood that the offense would continue or resume after
the person's release.
the person presents a danger to someone else or themselves.
The law will have varying effect across the State, depending on the
previous practices of police. Many departments had long ago adopted a
"community policing" policy, in which jail was the last resort. Others
have maintained a policy of making physical arrests in almost any
situation. That practice will stop.
Advocates say even a few
hours spent in jail can upend someone's life and lead to the loss of
employment or custody of children.
The task force found that many
individuals are irreparably harmed by even a short stay behind bars. The
harm can come in the form of loss of employment, loss of the ability to
become re-employed, loss of family, and continuing economic damage.
Many psychologists claim that the very act of being locked up, "the
door being locked," can result in post traumatic syndrome, which can
affect the individual for the remainder of their life.
Burton, relational organizer for the nonprofit Michigan Liberation, said
the effects of being arrested for a low-level offense can be
Several local police departments, notably the City
of Kingsford, already practice effective community policing. The change
in arrest policy is expected to have little effect in those communities.