In our society, putting someone behind bars is necessary after we are as certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty.
However, when we know that many facets of the system are broken and it is likely that innocent people have been thrown in jail, we must act to correct this injustice and balance the scales of justice.
After serving on the Governor's Indigent Defense Advisory Commission and thoroughly researching the indigent defense systems in our state, I have no doubt that there are people in prison who are innocent and others who are serving longer terms than they would have, if they had a decent attorney defending them.
Think about that. Is there anything more foundational to a society than making sure that the freedom of the innocent is not taken away by government? Knowing this fate has befallen some, due to inadequate defense and a broken system of justice, I made addressing this inadequacy a top priority.
I am proud that because of legislation signed into law last week, our state has an oversight system that will ensure justice is meted out as best as possible to both rich and poor defendants across Michigan.
That law forms the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, which will put protections in place that will ensure that indigent defense standards are the same in one county as in another, while allowing locals to decide the delivery system that best suits their citizens.
As a former county commissioner, I'm happy that this legislation guarantees poor defendants will given enough resources to ensure they are given a fair shot in court while still limiting any additional costs that might be borne by locals in already cash-strapped counties.
As a top conservative in Lansing, I have enjoyed the unique experience of working on this matter with diverse groups like the ACLU of Michigan, the Michigan Bar, the Campaign for Justice and the Sixth Amendment Center.
Today, we can all unite in celebration that our elected officials have seen the injustices in our judicial system and put in place a solution that will protect the strongest foundation for our society: the focus of true and equal justice before our laws.
Guest Blog by Representative Tom McMillin, elected to his third term in the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2012, representing residents of Rochester, Rochester Hills, and part of Oakland Township.