Michigan bans the box, and the news in criminal justice this week

“I think it’s important to be a role model. If you’re going to advocate for others to do it, we should be doing it ourselves.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had removed all criminal history questions from licensing applications, unless required by federal or state law. He also signed an executive directive that prevents state departments from asking job seekers about their criminal history on their initial applications. Snyder said he hoped the new policies would spur private employers to hire people with criminal records. The Mackinac Center’s Jarret Skorup predicted the policies “will increase economic opportunity and enhance public safety by encouraging dignified work.”

“We believe that a cornerstone of the effort to reduce recidivism rests upon ensuring that, upon their release, inmates have the tools they need to succeed as self-sufficient and independent citizens…”

The Pennsylvania State Agency Financial Exchange, or PA $AFE, is a partnership of the Department of Corrections and Department of Banking and Securities to help provide returning citizens with financial education. The pilot program is designed to be scalable and sustainable and provide up-to-date, real-world training. In evaluating the program, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and Banking and Securities Secretary Robin Wiessmann said they were tracking outcome measurements, including differences in recidivism rates, successful employment, and financial engagement, including opening a bank account or starting a business.

“It’s absolutely appropriate for state government to put restraints on other governments, so they can’t take life, liberty, or property away from folks.”

California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation this week that prohibits cities from charging residents for their own prosecutions. In a series written last year, the Desert Sun found the cities of Indio and Coachella had charged residents thousands of dollars in prosecution fees,  often for minor infractions. Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) called the practice “policing for profit,” and his cosponsor Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) said the fees imposed an undue burden on low-income residents.

“We lock up too many people for too long, and it’s about time that we change the dynamics. I apologize for that, I want to be on the front end for changing that.”

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson apologized for his role in what he called the “hysteria” of locking people up. Thompson was a lead sponsor of so-called “truth-in-sentencing” laws in 1997, and oversaw the expansion of the state’s prison system. Currently, 23,500 people are held in Wisconsin’s prisons, and the state is studying plans for a new $300 million facility.  Thompson voiced support for substance abuse treatment and job training for people who are incarcerated, saying it could also help the state’s worker shortage.

“These post-implementation analyses reveal that the CJRA had an immediate and sizeable impact on summons issuance in New York City. Further, the intended outcome of a dramatic reduction in the volume of warrants issued in criminal court was achieved.”

John Jay College’s Misdemeanor Justice Project released a report this week on the implementation of the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), which created the presumption that certain low-level offenses would result in a civil, rather than criminal, summons. In 2016, the year the CJRA was passed, the majority of criminal summonses in New York City were for public urination, public drinking, littering, noise offense or parks rules offenses. In the six months following implementation 89% of summonses for those five offenses were civil, and the city saw a 94% decrease in warrants for CJRA-eligible offenses.