A package of legislation introduced last week by Democrat state Rep. Kara Hope aims to amend Michigan’s penal code to allow nearly every criminal to petition for a reduced sentence after serving 10 years behind bars. Michigan Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Matt Hall, blasted the Democrat-sponsored legislation, arguing that it prioritizes criminals above victims.
“The Democrats make these conversations largely about these criminals and how unfair the criminal justice system is,” Hall, who represents areas around Kalamazoo, told The Daily Wire in a phone interview Friday. “And what we’re trying to do is make sure the voices of the victims are heard.”
Michigan House Republicans held a press conference on Thursday to ensure that victims and the families of victims of violent crimes could speak out on the Democrat-proposed legislation, dubbed “second look.” Hall said that if passed, the resentencing bills would give over 5,000 convicted murderers in the state, who have already served at least 10 years, a chance to get out of prison. Nearly 2,000 criminals convicted of sexual crimes would also be eligible to request lower sentences if the package becomes law.
When petitioned, a court would have 180 days to either deny or grant a hearing to an eligible inmate and could not impose another life without parole sentence if a convict is granted a new hearing. An inmate with an illness, including a “serious mental illness,” would have a hearing denied or granted within 45 days of submitting a petition. Prosecutors would also have the ability to request reduced sentences for violent criminals, according to Hall, who is concerned that leftist district attorneys would take advantage of the law to push for lowering criminal sentences as seen in recent years in cities across America.
If an inmate is denied a new hearing, he can petition the court again every two years, a system Hall said will repeatedly force families of victims back into traumatic cases.
The legislation has a limited exception for some criminals, denying mass shooters the ability to petition a court for a reduced sentence, but even this exception is ill-defined, Hall said. The legislation defines a mass shooting as “an offense that resulted in convictions for 3 or more counts of first degree premeditated murder arising out of a single incident.” Based on this definition, the exception wouldn’t apply to the Uber shooter who killed six at three different locations in Kalamazoo in 2016.
To pass the reduced sentencing bills, Democrats will need every member of their House caucus to vote in line with the party, something they have consistently done to pass leftist policy since taking control of both chambers of the Michigan legislature in the 2022 election. Hall believes Republicans will unanimously vote against the Democrat-sponsored package, meaning the bills’ passage could come down to the votes of the few “moderate” Democrats in the lower chamber, but Hall isn’t optimistic about any Democrats bucking the party.
“Several of these Democrats campaigned as moderates to win elections in tight seats, and so far, we have not seen a single one of them deviate from the Democrat leadership on a single vote,” Hall said.
Democrats see the proposed legislation as another way to push their agenda of investing in rehabilitation above retribution to keep people out of prison.
“When we lock someone up, it is a very expensive endeavor, and is on the backs of taxpayer money,” House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash told Bridge Michigan. “We need to start examining potential tools to allow us to observe and assess some of that efficiency or inefficiency in the system.”
The state’s Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s spokesman issued a statement that skirted directly addressing whether the governor supports the legislation.
“For those who do get caught up in the justice system, we believe that people should take responsibility for their actions and pay their debts to society if they’ve made a mistake, but also firmly believe that people deserve second chances especially for non-violent offenses,” the statement said.
Hall said the Democrats’ view on the criminal justice system is radically different from what Republicans advocate.
“The Republican view on this is if there is a sentence that is unfair, we can look at that sentence and lower it. … You don’t have to sweep in automatic reviews every two years potentially of every criminal in the state who’s in prison,” Hall said, arguing that the proposed legislation has “far-reaching consequences for public safety in our state.”