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Rep. Bellino: More flexibility needed to help end over-criminalization of Michigan residents
RELEASE|September 10, 2020

A criminal justice reform plan spearheaded by state Rep. Joe Bellino received broad support Wednesday during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Bellino, of Monroe, said the bipartisan plan would eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences for several low-level crimes, giving Michigan judges flexibility to determine the most appropriate punishment for each unique situation.

“All too often, mandatory minimum sentences mean people get thrown in jail for low-level offenses – even when the circumstances surrounding their particular case are not very severe,” Bellino said. “Rather than top-down, one-size-fits-all penalties we must give the judges in our communities the discretion they need to weigh each crime individually.”

The plan was introduced to address recommendations from the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which was formed last year to study the state’s criminal justice system. The task force found Michigan’s jail population had tripled in just 35 years, and most admissions were for misdemeanors and low-level offenses. Currently, about 50 of Michigan’s nearly 2,000 misdemeanors require a mandatory minimum jail sentence, ranging in length from two days to six months.

Bellino’s legislation, House Bill 5844, would eliminate the mandatory minimum sentences for misdemeanor violations of the Public Health Code. Other parts of the plan remove mandatory minimum sentences for numerous driving offenses, hunting and fishing violations and other misdemeanors.

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