FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LANSING, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds state lawmakers for holding a hearing this week in which people impacted by our state’s broken bail system were asked to testify. House Oversight Committee Chair Steven Johnson (R – Wayland), members of the committee, and bipartisan House leaders held the hearing to shed light on a system that overwhelmingly punishes the poor and people of color.
On any given day about 8,000 people, presumed innocent, are locked in Michigan jails simply because they cannot afford to pay bail. Research shows Black residents are up to six times more likely to be in county jail than white residents, and Black people receive higher bail amounts than white defendants facing similar charges.
Lawmakers heard testimony from a Michigan resident who has been incarcerated while waiting for his day in court because he was too poor to pay for his freedom. A business owner also detailed challenges with losing workers to needless incarceration over unaffordable bail. The ACLU of Michigan and coalition partners have been working to reform the pretrial bail system based on recommendations from the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. Legislation was introduced last year but has not seen movement until this week’s hearing.
ACLU of Michigan’s Legislative Director Merissa Kovach has this statement:
“We are grateful that Rep. Johnson and his colleagues are willing to give a platform for everyday Michiganders to describe the impact the broken bail system has on their lives. It is an unfair system that traps people in a cycle of poverty, recidivism, and incarceration, and has a disastrous impact on entire communities, especially communities of color. Leaders in the state House took an important step to bring attention to challenges facing residents in a legal system where, too often, people are punished for being poor.
“We will continue to move forward and work with our partners and state lawmakers until the stalled bail reform legislation is passed into law.”
The ACLU of Michigan is part of a coalition working to pass House Bills 5436 and 5443. The proposed legislation was introduced in October 2021 and is an essential step towards reforming the pretrial system.
Specifically, the legislation will:
- Limit the use of cash bail and other over-restrictive bail conditions.
- Require release without cash bail for people charged with certain non-serious misdemeanors.
- Establish consistent statewide guidelines for determining conditions of release while a defendant waits for their case to go to trial.
- Require courts to track and regularly share data on their use of cash bond and other restrictive release conditions.