Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2022 fiscal year budget plan will include more than $92.4 million to support various criminal justice reforms, including the implementation of automatic expungement and raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said the $67 billion budget proposal that will be presented to the Legislature on Thursday includes measures that represent “a continued attention and investment in reforming our criminal legal system for the better,” such as pathways to second chances after incarceration.
Criminal justice reform has been an area of bipartisan consensus in recent years. Among the most notable reforms are new expungement laws that expand eligibility and automate the process for some offenses, as well as laws brought about by a task force that recommended ways to lower the state’s jail population.
“I think especially in this moment where partisanship has become dangerous to the point of being deadly, this is an area of work that I think should remain an example,” Gilchrist told the Free Press.
Whitmer’s budget includes a $31.4 million increase to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) to bring its total funding to $149 million. The commission develops and implements standards for a fair and constitutional public defense system. MIDC provides grants to local public defender offices and courts to meet its standards, which cover areas such as defense counsel education, use of experts, and how lawyers are appointed to indigent defendants.
The budget proposal dedicates $29.1 million for raising the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18, which will take effect in October. The funding would support additional costs that counties will take on when 17 year olds are shifted from the adult legal system to the juvenile justice system.
For expungement, the budget includes $21.2 million to create an automatic record clearing system and to support court personnel as eligibility for criminal record clearing is expanded. New laws that impact expungement through the application process will take effect in April, while automatic expungement won’t be rolled out until December 2022 at the earliest, according to Safe & Just Michigan.
As April nears, Gilchrist said people who want to apply for expungement can expect to see “a whole lot” of efforts across the state to help them take advantage of the new laws.
“There will be a lot of attention brought to this. It’s really important,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who I think are hungry for … full access to civic life, full access to their economic potential, full access to education, better housing.”
Whitmer’s budget includes $10.2 million for de-escalation training for law enforcement. This training would be aimed at helping officers respond to domestic violence as well as recognize mental health crises to divert individuals with behavioral health needs from the criminal justice system. Gilchrist said training is intended to address a concern among law enforcement officers that they are not equipped to act as frontline mental health emergency responders.
The budget proposal includes $325,700 to support the State Court Administrative Office in ongoing efforts around pretrial bail and sentencing decisions, Gilchrist said. Additionally, $200,000 would go to Michigan Legal Help for legal assistance for people representing themselves in civil cases.
Angie Jackson covers the challenges of formerly incarcerated citizens as a corps member with Report for America. Her work is supported by The GroundTruth Project and the Hudson-Webber Foundation. Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work. Become a Free Press subscriber.