With the closing of the Detroit Reentry Center (DRC) this past month, which was the sister facility to the Lake County Residential Entry Program (LCRRP), you can see first hand on the shift of the way the state is dealing with parole violators.

The closing of the LCRRP was a difficult decision for the county, with the loss of the much needed jobs, however you can now see it had nothing to do with us locally, but as a complete result with the change of state policy.

Reform is also happening when it comes to someone's past criminal history. There are many pending bills in the legislature that are expected to pass, that may automatically remove something from someone's past.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I discuss the pending expungement "clean slate" legislation, and how it may affect you.

CLEAN SLATE LEGISLATION

I'm a strong believer in giving people second chances. I do not believe that someone should pay for something they did when they were younger, as long as it was not an egregious thing or the conduct was repetitive.

I also believe that people can change, and may not be the same person they once were when they committed the crime many years ago. Sometimes a person wants to move on but it makes it very difficult when they always have something hanging over their head.

• Definition: Expungement is the elimination of arrests and convictions from a person’s public criminal record.

Strictly speaking, when a record is expunged, a criminal past is excluded from view from everyone. However, in Michigan, “expungement” means that law enforcement and the courts can continue to see someone’s criminal history, while employers, landlords and other members of the general public cannot.

Michigan law has allowed someone to apply to expunge a criminal conviction from their public record after five years have passed from the end of their sentence. The current system of expungement is very difficult to file and pretty much needs you to hire an attorney to be successful. From a recent study, only 6.5% of people who qualify for expungement have their records cleared within five years of becoming eligible. Those who have had their charges expunged have increased their success on seeking employment and obtaining higher salaries.

Let me give you a general overview of this pending legislation:

House Bill 4984 (H-1) would provide for setting aside convictions in certain criminal cases and to modify the circumstances under which a person who was convicted of one or more criminal offenses could file an application to set aside one or more convictions.

House Bill 4985 (S-1) would require that more than one felony offense or more than one misdemeanor offense be treated as a single felony or misdemeanor conviction if the underlying felony or misdemeanor offenses occurred within 24 hours and arose from the same transaction. Certain convictions would not be applicable.

House Bill 4982 (S-1) would do the following:

— Allow a person convicted of one or more misdemeanor marihuana offenses to apply to set aside the conviction or convictions.

— Specify that there would be a rebuttable presumption that a conviction for a misdemeanor marihuana offense sought to be set aside by an applicant was based on activity that would not have been a crime if committed on or after Dec. 6, 2018...

House Bill 4980 (S-5) Establishes an automated system for record clearing without an application. Most misdemeanors would be expunged seven years after sentencing. Felonies would be cleared 10 years after sentencing or the person's release from incarceration, whichever comes last. Up to two felonies and four misdemeanors could be automatically cleared.

The following would not be eligible: assaultive crimes, serious misdemeanors, "crimes of dishonesty" (such as forgery and counterfeiting), offenses punishable by 10 or more years in prison, and crimes that include a minor vulnerable adult, injury or serious impairment, death or human trafficking.

SWIFT AND SURE PROGRAM

This program was the catalyst of the closing of the LCRRP and the DRC. Swift and Sure is an intensive probation supervision program that targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures. Every violation results in an immediate sanction (“Swift”) and offenders know exactly what that sanction will be (“Sure”).

Offenders are closely monitored, including daily reporting to their probation agent for the first 30 days and then weekly reporting for the remainder of their program, random testing for drug and alcohol use and being required to attend frequent meetings with probation and case management staff.

From an Associated Press article released on 9/22/2020:

"The state Corrections Department, citing fewer prisoners and other changes, is closing a Detroit location that houses parole violators and inmates who need dialysis. The Detroit Reentry Center will close in January. It has 70 people, down from hundreds. … The state’s prison population is below 35,000, down 32% from a peak of 51,500 in 2007.

"The department said people who violate parole for nonviolent reasons are not being locked up, a factor in the lower numbers at the Reentry Center."

As you can see, no longer are offenders being sent to reentry facilities, but are rather sent to an independent program. When there are no offenders to be sent, there is no income or revenue. On a local level, poor planning, mismanagement and the belief that "the program would always be around" attributed to the limited options on saving it.

As evidence, some of the profits made on the LCRRP program went to pay for the bonds that paid for additions to the courthouse, instead of making extra principal payments to pay off the building. So when it was closed, the county owed over 3.6 million dollars on a building that in my guess would appraise for under one million. The facts are the facts.

This information is provided to you for clarification of specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.