Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Michigan: Taking Criminal Justice Reform Seriously

The Associated Press reports Michigan lawmakers are aiming at "keeping the more than 100,000 criminals under state supervision from committing new crimes, a move one supporter called a 'milestone' shift in the treatment of offenders."

One proposal "would limit the length of incarceration for offenders who violate their probation." Another would "create a more intensive parole program with progressively harsher penalties for violating the terms of parole as opposed to automatically sending parolees back to prison." Another bill "would explicitly let judges reduce probationers' length of supervision for good behavior." There are also attempts to "officially define what recidivism means and require precise data on whether offenders on probation or parole are committing new crimes or committing technical violations such as failing to report for a visit with an officer or abusing a substance."

The goal? To "keep minor criminals out of county jails and state prisons that can be 10 times more expensive than supervising probationers and parolees." The piece interestingly notes that "about half" of the state's 41,000 prisoners are "locked up for parole or probation violations." See full story here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Michigan Adopts the Federal Model: Impressive Talk, Little Action

The Lansing State Journal is featuring an article which notes that Governor Snyder "cleared" the criminal records of only 11 people last year - among hundreds of requests he has received since 2011. This year, he has yet to grant a single pardon. Over 90 requests have been received this year.

Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz calls pardons "a rare step.” No kidding.

The Journal reports, however, that a deputy director at the Corrections Department says the Governor really wants to help people whose convictions are “inhibiting them from advancing economically.” Indeed, a "spokesman" says the Governor “believes pardons should be used in circumstances when a criminal conviction was a significant barrier to a person being able to get a job and support their family.”

That is really impressive sounding talk. We guess, the Governor, evidently is just not very skilled at showing all of this concern. See full story here,

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Michigan: The Politics of Parole, Pardon

Gov. Rick Snyder
Brian Dickerson of Detroit Free Press does some very fine reporting on a case we discussed last month - Governor Rick Snyder's pardon of Alan Gocha, a recent offender, who also happened to be a former political appointee and acquaintance. The story of the pardon was further colorized by the fact that Snyder is fairly stingy with pardons, the offense was committed not very long ago and the application was supported by "connected" persons. See our previous coverage and commentary here.

Governer Snyder, at first, attempted to appear "puzzled" that anyone would care about such a thing but, as Dickerson notes, he also argued Gocha "never contributed" to his campaign and did not have "any financial connection at all," He also emphasized the pardon was signed on the recommendation of the Michigan Parole Board.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Michigan: Court Revokes Gubernatorial Revocation!

Jennifer Granholm
The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that governors "cannot reduce a prisoner’s sentence and then change their mind." The decision reverses one of Jennifer Granholm’s last acts as Governor - when she commuted the life sentence of Matthew Makowski, making him eligible for parole. See article here.

Noting the State's Constitution does not grant "absolute" power to the Governor in the matter of clemency, the Court ruled a commutation of sentence is "final" when it is "signed by the Secretary of State and affixed with the Great Seal" (20). Interestingly, the plaintiff had originally argued finality included "delivery" to the Department of Corrections (4) - no particular attention given to the definition of "delivered" (mailed? waiting to be mailed? received but not opened? opened but not addressed? etc.).

Quite oddly, the Court could not imagine "at what point the power [to revoke] would cease" (22) - the long held, traditional and widely known suggesting being when an act of clemency is delivered into the hands of (and accepted by) the recipient. See the Supreme Court's opinion here.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Michigan: Women's Justice and Clemency Project

The Detroit Free Press is reporting on the Michigan Women’s Justice and Clemency Project's efforts to secure clemency for ten women convicted of murder. The organization is filing petitions for clemency with Gov. Rick Snyder for the women because they were "victims of domestic violence and didn’t get fair trials." Project director Carol Jacobson further argues, "These women are not a threat to anybody” and
“The whole social understanding of battery and abuse has changed since the 1980s and 1990s, when many of these women were convicted. In many of these cases, the abuse was never raised at trial.” 
The Free Press notes "all of the women in the filings have sought clemency before, and all have been denied," but the Project "files petitions with governors who are nearing the end of their elected terms with the hope that they’ll make decisions without fear of political fallout." According to the article, there are, currently, 372 women are in Michigan prisons serving time for murder. See full article here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Michigan: Revocation of Commutation?

During her final days in office, Governor Granholm commuted the life sentence of Matthew Makowski (convicted of murder and armed robbery), making him eligible for parole. Later, Granholm reversed her own decision to commute the sentence and the official paperwork re the matter was never delivered to Makowski. The State's Supreme Court has now decided to consider the case. See story here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Michigan: Commutation Retracted

In 2010, Matthew Makowski was informed that she would be given a commutation of her life sentence from Governor Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Makoski had spent more than two decades in prison for first-degree murder. But, within 48 hours, the Governor "got cold feet" - says Ed White at the Huffington Post - and "rescinded her own order." Two years later, the reversal is said to have "touched off an extraordinary legal challenge from a professor and students at the University of Michigan law school."

As the argument goes, "the governor's decision to commute the sentence was final as soon as she signed and filed the document." White reports "There is no history of an about-face like Granholm's" - which may be true in Michigan, but is certainly not true at the federal level (see our commentary here). The case is currently before the state appeals court.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beebe 6 Pardons. No Dust.

Governor Mike Beebe has announced his intent to grant six pardons. He also denied 10 requests. Per usual, the  were denied and 14 had no action taken upon them. These include requests from both inmates and non-inmates six recipients "have completed all jail time, fulfilled all parole-and-probationary requirements and paid all fines related to their sentences." Among the offenses addressed in these pardons are assault, possession of a controlled substance, fraudulence use of a credit card, property theft, robbery, terroristic threatening, domestic battery, and commercial burglary. In Arkansas, there is a 30-day "waiting period" for public feedback on announced pardons. See article here.

Beebe is one of the few Governors who exercises the pardon power with some regularity. Given all of the noise about Mike Huckabee, one wonders why the non-controversial nature of his pardons is not given more attentions. Similarly, Governor Granholm's record pardon activity (in Michigan) must - by definition - mean were are currently in the midst of something like record non-recidivism! Where is the press? Where is all of the commentary and analysis? Answer: waiting, patiently, for the next single incident, to pretend as though pardons are just too risky!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Michigan: Seriously Lame Muscle Flexing

Without reference to any particular decision(s) of his predecessor, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and without any reference whatsoever to data on current applications, a spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder has amazingly announced, that consideration of applications for commutations of sentence will be considered on a "case-by-case" basis (Has that not always been the true?), but it is "probably safe to say" that "there are going to be far less" granted.

Why? Uh ... just because. Now THAT is pitiful!

WOOD 8 reports - without details - that Snyder has "tightened up the criteria" for clemency and that he has reduced the size of the State's parole board (from 15 to 10 members). He has also eliminated a recently created "Clemency Council."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Michigan: Delayed Justice, Delayed Release

Thomas Cress has been in prison since the 1980s, but WWMT3 reports there is "overwhelming evidence" that he is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted and there is a "confession of a man who says he did it." So Jennifer Granholm commuted Cress' sentence before leaving office. Yet he will not actually be leaving prison until this Tuesday! See story here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting Out of the Self-Created Corner

In an era of booming prison populations and governmental overreach, executives (both state and federal) essentially paint themselves into a nasty little corner when they fail to exercise the pardon power on a regular basis, throughout the term, if not with some frequency. The consequences of such behavior are predictable and yet, to no small degree, almost completely avoidable. Governor Schwarzenegger's recent commutation of sentence for the son of a former state politician is a classic example of the problem and its symptoms. It also leads one easily enough to a very  logical solution.

First, let it be said that the sons and daughter of politicians deserve justice, and fair consideration, as much as anyone else. The same goes for a governor's (or president's) political allies, supporters, donors and party leaders. An individual should not be exempt from any possibility of clemency simply because they share enthusiastic support for the same party or political views as a governor, or president. That simply flies in the face of basic notions of justice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Michigan: Commutation Revoked

Imagine this: A man is convicted of first degree murder and, when the sentence is about to be announced, the judge says, "What do you think you deserve?" The convicted murderer says, "Oh, about 10 years, max." The judge then slams down the gavel and announces the sentence, "Ten years. Max."

Now imagine this: A man is sentenced to life in prison, but his supporters argue, persuasively, that he is innocent. So, the governor commutes the sentence to time served. When the guards come to release the prisoner, he says, "No, actually I like it here. I get three square meals a day. Have a library. Access to television and sports. I think I would like to stay here, thanks."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that Governor Granholm has decided to follow the recommendation of the State's parole board and commute the sentence of 43-year-old Matthew Makowski, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1988 and sentenced to life in prison. See full story here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Michigan: Granholm the Merciful

The Detroit Free Press has an extensive report on the clemency program of  Gov. Granholm "the most merciful chief executive in modern Michigan history, and possibly of all time." The piece notes the governor has granted 179 commutations over the last eight years, "most of them in the last three years, when she has ordered at least one release a week." This year alone she has considered more than 2,000 applications. A spokesperson says Ganholm:
"believes in a deliberative, judicious and limited use of commutation authority Her commutation decisions reflect her desire to protect public safety without ignoring the need to reduce prison costs and bring Michigan's sentencing policies in line with other states."
Granholm's practices are described as "a sharp departure" from her immediate predecessors handled. James Blanchard (D) 1983-90, issued only a half-dozen commutations, all but one during his last week on the job. John Engler (R) 1991-2002, commuted the sentences of only 34 inmates. William Milliken (R), who "has urged Granholm to exercise her authority to grant clemency more generously," commuted only 95 sentences in his 13 years in office.

The report also notes that the "overwhelming majority of inmates whose sentences have been commuted by Granholm were serving for drug crimes or were deemed seriously ill." And, "the state saves money when it releases a seriously ill inmate because the treatment then is picked up by Medicaid or other insurance." In addition, "none of the prisoners released by commutation in the Granholm era has committed a new, violent crime." See story here.

Governors and Mercy

StateLine.org is featuring a piece on clemency in the states. Its general theme is that governors tend to show mercy as their terms come to an end. Governor Ed Rendell (PA) has granted 1,059 pardons during his eight years in office, "more than double the state's previous record."  Governor Jennifer Granholm (MI) has commuted 179 prisoners' sentences over the last eight years, "more than any governor in that state in decades." But the piece also asserts, "at the state level, governors commonly grant clemency at the end of their term in office."  See entire piece here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Michigan: Former Governor Lobbies for Pardons

Jack Lessenberry of Wayne State University has an editorial in today's Toledo Blade regarding former Governor Bill Milliken, "Michigan's longest-serving governor. " The piece says Milliken "usually doesn't give his successors advice these days unless they ask for it." The sole exception would be in the matter of "dozens of women in Michigan prisoners who he is convinced don't belong behind bars." Lessenberry says these women "are no threat to society," but mostly "battered and abused women who were unjustly convicted or got sentences far harsher than they deserved." Thus Milliken has joined with the Michigan Women's Justice and Clemency Project in seeking clemency on their behalf.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Michigan: Call for Clemency

Carol Jacobsen, director of Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project at the University of Michigan is calling on the Governor to "leave a powerful legacy of human rights" by having the "courage to commute the sentences of battered women prisoners who acted to save their own lives but did not receive fair trials based on the facts of their cases." Jacobsen, writing in the Detroit Free Press, says this would be particularly appropriate as Michigan law is "seriously outdated and inadequate to address survivors of domestic violence who act in their own defense." She also notes other governors have released battered women prisoners as they left office. See full article here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Michigan: Commutation of Sentence

It is reported that Governor Granholm has commuted the sentence Carol Hart, who escaped from prison almost 40 years ago. Hart accompanied an individual who shot and killed a clerk during a robbery. She claimed that she knew nothing of the crime beforehand and that she did not "participate." But the best that a plea deal could bring her was a 25- to 35-year sentence! Hall wasn't impressed and escaped in less than a year. She was eventually caught when the police got a hot tip and picked her up at work. See story here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Michigan: Request

The Michigan parole board is reported to be considering the case of Tom Cress, whose clemency application is supported by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Cress was convicted of the murder of a teenage girl some twenty-five years ago, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. The State's Supreme Court also refused to grant a new trial despite a confession of by another individual. Cress is also supported by the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school. The application for clemency is opposed by a county prosecutor. See story here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Michigan: The Case of Cress

53-year-old Tom Cress, convicted of rape and battery of a school girl in 1985, tells the state Parole and Commutation Board that he was framed. The Detroit Free Press notes his case:
has been argued through state and federal courts in a bewildering history of lost and destroyed evidence, contrary confessions from an Arkansas killer, pleas by a U.S. senator and demands of prosecutors and the Rosansky family that he never go free.
On top of all of that , Cress takes medication on a daily basis to protect him from "delusional taunting voices."

Two retired Battle Creek cops believe Cress didn't do it. A retired detective agrees, as do attorneys from the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School - which argues physical evidence that might have cleared him was lost by his original attorney and other evidence was destroyed by the prosecutor. Senator. Carl Levin ( D-Mich.) says Governor Granholm should commute Cress' life sentence. See story here.

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