inmates

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is bringing a class-action lawsuit against Muskegon County on behalf of current and former female inmates at the jail.

ACLU attorney Miriam Auckerman alleges women at the jail are forced to shower and use the toilet in front of male guards. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT - A lawmaker from western Michigan is leading an effort to possibly save millions of dollars in the criminal justice system.

  Rep. Joe Haveman, a Republican from Holland, hopes to bring a pack of the bills to the House floor this week that would make changes in the parole process and create a commission to study sentences.

  Haveman wants to try to get more people out of prison if they're eligible for parole and not a risk to the public. He's been working with prosecutors, judges, sheriffs and defense lawyers on a compromise.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - About 130 Michigan prison inmates will have an opportunity to seek parole in a case that ends an unusual state policy of treating them as mandatory lifers.

The state won't appeal a 2013 court decision that struck down the policy and has agreed to clear the way for a parole process. Judge Deborah Servitto signed an order last week.

It's an odd case. The inmates were sent to prison with life sentences for a variety of crimes but still had a chance at parole. Then they got in trouble for possessing a weapon or committing another offense behind bars.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Legislation in Michigan House could cap FOIA fees

There is new legislation up for initial hearing this week in Lansing. It is a response to local governments and state agencies charging hefty fees for people to see government records.

"One of the bills would limit most charges for requests filed under the state’s Freedom of Information Act to no more than 10 cents a page. Another would create a Michigan Open Government Commission to hear challenges to government denials of information requests," Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

Lansing City Council vs. Mayor Virg Bernero

The Lansing city council will vote tonight on a budget for next year. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that "the vote will likely put the council at odds with Mayor Virg Bernero." 

The mayor wants to add annual fees for city water and electricity customers. Conversely, the council wants to make several spending cuts including eliminating several new positions the mayor wants to add to the city's payroll. Mayor Virg Bernero will have until Thursday to veto parts of the city budget he doesn’t like. The Lansing city council has until early June to try to override the mayor’s expected vetoes.

Higher education opportunities piloted in Michigan prisons

"After years without funding for prisoners to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections is immersed in several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates who are near parole. Michigan will join a pilot project that hopes to gather enough evidence to possibly resurrect publicly supported postsecondary education in prisons nationally," reports The Detroit News.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan employers would no longer be able to ask on a job application if a person has been convicted of a felony.  That is if one state lawmaker has his way.

Research shows a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job callback or offer by nearly 50%.

To help change that, State Representative Fred Durhal of Detroit wants to ban employers from including a question about criminal convictions on job applications.

He says too often employers throw away job applications if the applicant checks the criminal conviction box.

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan appeals court says it has no authority to intervene in the judgment of then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who agreed to change a prisoner's no-parole sentence but then changed her mind before leaving office in 2010.

The court said Friday it must respect the "clear and exclusive constitutional power" granted to Michigan governors in commutation matters.

The emergency was declared this week when the number of inmates remained above 700 for seven days in a row. The jail’s capacity is only 580 inmates.

That means state law now requires the jail to release about 175 inmates in the next two weeks. The number needs to get to 555 within 12 days; if the sheriff’s department can’t do that it’ll create a list to hand over to judges to decide.

Pelle Sten / Creative Commons

new state law that mandates inmates give DNA samples is helping police solve dozens of cold cases.

Since the mid 90s, all inmates have had to give DNA samples when they exit prisons and jails in Michigan. They could volunteer the DNA before they were released, but they didn’t have to.

“Obviously when someone refuses to give a sample, something’s up,” Michigan State Police Captain Greg Michaud said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In February the sheriff instituted a “postcard only” rule at the county jail. That meant inmates could only send or receive mail on standard postcards. The sheriff was trying to keep drugs, pornography, and items inmates could use as weapons – out of the jail. Legal paperwork is exempt. Now the sheriff is allowing inmates to send letters. But incoming mail still has to be written on standard postcards.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Mail policies at several county jails across the state are becoming more restrictive, mainly to save money. It’s causing an outcry from inmates’ family and friends, and people who advocate for prisoners’ rights.

Michigan prison inmates will have to submit to DNA testing soon after they're locked up rather than waiting until just before they're released under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The state began collecting inmates' DNA samples in 1994, but inmates currently aren't required to provide a sample until they're released on parole, placed in a halfway house or discharged after serving their full sentences.

Supporters say the new law Snyder signed Thursday will help police solve cold cases sooner by giving them the ability to match inmates' DNA to unsolved crimes while they're still in prison.

Prison inmates now will have to give a DNA sample within three months of incarceration.

Village hopes a private prison brings jobs, money
Flickr user Still Burning / Creative Commons

The tiny village of Baldwin is hoping a private prison contract bringing thousands of inmates from California to Michigan will help revitalize the area. Baldwin is 65 miles north of Grand Rapids.