Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilitySPECIAL REPORT: Michigan considers bail reform, while some IN counties already testing it | WSBT
Close Alert

SPECIAL REPORT: Michigan considers bail reform, while some IN counties already testing it

WSBT 22 file photo
WSBT 22 file photo
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

When people are arrested, they're arraigned and a judge sets a bail amount.

That bail has to be posted for you to get out of jail before your court date -- but what happens if you can't afford it?

WSBT 22 Fact Finder Max Lewis looks at what's being done locally to make sure people aren't sitting in jail because they can't afford to get out.

When people are unable to afford bail, sometimes they lose their jobs and are unable to provide for their families while stuck behind bars. Indiana has looked into preventing that from happening by implementing a bail pilot program in several counties including St. Joseph County.

Now, Michigan is looking into similar reforms as well.

Back in 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court adopted Criminal Rule 26 that reads, in part, "If an arrestee does not present a substantial risk of flight or danger to themselves or others, the court should release the arrestee without money bail."

That program was implemented in 11 counties across Indiana, including St. Joseph County.

"My goal as sheriff is to try to keep people out of our jail,” said Sheriff Bill Redman (D), St. Joseph County.

Redman says the pilot program has been beneficial. People can only participate in the pre-trial release program for non-violent misdemeanors.

They also can't be on probation, or parole, or already on a bond for a previous offense.

"People do make mistakes, there’s no question about that.," said Redman. "So when they make a mistake, they still have to go through our system. And with that being said, giving them an opportunity to still go to work, support themselves, support their families. This is why these types of programs are set up."

"We’re really long overdue for some real meaningful pre-trial and bond reform in Michigan,” said Christopher Renna, Berrien County chief public defender.

Renna says there are too many people in jail solely because they can't post bail.

“Your bank account shouldn’t be the barrier for you to be in jail or out of jail," said Renna. "It should be based on what kind of case you’re being charged with, or your particular risk of showing up to court, or being a danger to the community and those kind of factors."

Back in April, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order creating a task force to study possible pre-trial release reforms and how to put them in place.

St. Joseph County, Indiana has started other reforms, including setting up a specific drug court. They're in the process of creating a special mental health court, all with the same goal of keeping people of out jail.

"It gives them the ability to hopefully learn a lesson from being arrested and not to make that same mistake again and continue with the rehabilitation and counseling that they may need,” said Redman.

While setting bail is ultimately up to the judges, Renna says he thinks there's initiative from all parties to see some pre-trial reform.

"I think that there’s a lot of hope that we’re going to be able to reduce those populations, because sometimes you need to try something new, and need to have some new solutions to problems that have been going on for a long time,” said Renna.

Once the task force has completed its report, those suggestions will be looked at by Michigan's legislature.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter says he thinks the changes are a good idea, but wants to see the data before making a final determination.

Comment bubble

Starting next year in Indiana, the supreme court will look at the results from St. Joseph County and those 10 other counties and then decide whether to implement the pre-trial changes statewide.

Loading ...