Last Tuesday, April 26th, VAAC held our first press conference ever! We gathered the press together to promote the Good Time petition which will enable those incarcerated in Michigan to earn credit toward their freedom. It would repeal the Truth In Sentencing law passed in 1998, which has resulted in Michigan holding prisoners longer than any state in the country.
Watch the video of the press conference HERE to get inspired. Then go HERE to get to work or find out where you can sign! (Note: you have to scroll down on the page to see the opportunities).
We only have a few weeks left to get this important measure on our ballot for November. WE NEED ALL HANDS ON DECK!
VAAC also sent out the following press release, which we hope you will share with your networks.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 28, 2022
State Senator Geiss Joins Statewide Call to Bring Back “Good Time” Credits
State Sen. Geiss joins The Good Time Initiative and Voting Access For All Coalition to work to help inmates re-enter society after incarceration
MICHIGAN – State Senator Erika Geiss, community organizers, and faith leaders from across the state came together in a press conference on Tuesday, April 26th, to speak on the importance of restoring “Good Time” credits to Michigan prisons through a ballot initiative. The lack of sentencing credits in Michigan affects more than just those incarcerated. This inhumane sentencing system is destroying communities, wasting resources, separating families, and ruining lives.
Kimberly Woodson, former juvenile lifer and founder of Redeeming Kimberly, a nonprofit organization that helps formerly incarcerated individuals, shared the importance of this initiative: “I want ‘Good Time’ to come back because I saw the impact it can have. It gives people hope. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made a mistake that doesn’t want to correct it. Just because they made a mistake, doesn’t mean they need to be penalized by losing their humanity. It is up to the Michigan Department of Correction to put this system in play so that people can come back home. Something that is earned is more valued than something that is given.”
Bonnie Zabel, Criminal Justice Advocacy Coordinator from Houghton Lake, urged Michiganders to sign the petition and join the movement to reinstate “Good Time”: “Today we are asking for your help. If you can volunteer to collect signatures, if you own a business, or if you are a part of a faith community, you can be a place where people can sign the petition. Learn more at www.goodtimeinitiative.org.”
Michigan is one of only six states that does not have a “Good Time” credit system, a system that awards inmates with time off their sentence for good behavior. Some state credit systems are based on good behavior (Good Time), some are credits earned by participating in a training program, or earning a college degree/ educational certificate. Michigan has neither.
Michigan replaced its former “Good Time” credits system with “Truth in Sentencing” in 1998. Truth in Sentencing forces inmates to serve the fullest extent of their minimum sentence. A consequence of this sentencing system is that many inmates are forced to serve more than 130% of their sentence.
Machelle Pearson, grassroots organizer from Detroit, described this reality: “When you sentence someone with truth-in-sentencing, you are sentencing folks to die. But when you allow for ‘Good Time’, you are giving them hope for a better life. They can now have access to classes, and ways to improve themselves. But without ‘Good Time’, there is no hope.”
Former Texas correctional officer, Durrel Douglas, contrasted the hopelessness of the Michigan prison system to the incentives given in Texas: “Even Texas has a ‘Day for a Day’ program. For every day that you work, take a class, or do a therapy session you get a day removed from your sentence. If you want to inspire that good behavior, then you need to implement a system with these incentives.”
Douglas emphasized the importance of this type of reform, and the need for voters to sign the petition. “We need to get these petitions to the people because the legislature has failed the people. We need to ensure that when we are sending people home they can come back as productive members of society, to reunite with their families and strengthen our communities.”
Reverend Dale Milford from Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan stated, “Our long-range goal is to cut mass incarceration in half by 2030. This ‘Good Time’ initiative will serve an important role to get to that goal. ‘Good Time’ is a pathway to redemption. Time spent in prison should be corrective, not punitive. There is also an economic consideration. It costs $40,000 to incarcerate someone for a year, which could instead be spent to train four nurses for a year.”
“We need people to sign this petition and put this issue in front of voters,” said State Senator Erika Geiss. “There are two bills, but the one supported by our petition is much stronger. We need to ensure that when we are sending people home they can come back as productive members of society, to reunite with their families and strengthen our communities. So I urge everyone who can sign the petition, to help bring people back home, whole.”
You can view the full press conference here. If you’re interested in interviewing any of the speakers, please contact Angela Davenport. [email protected]
Relevant Hashtags: #FreedomEarned #FreedomEarned2022
The Liberty & Justice For All Coalition is a bipartisan group of Michiganders working to reform our criminal justice system. More information can be found at the Good Time Initiative website: www.goodtimeinitiative.org/
The Voting Access for All Coalition (VAAC) is a coalition of individuals and organizations working to ensure that all justice-impacted Michiganders have the opportunity and knowledge they need to exercise their right to vote in every election. More information can be found at our website : https://votingaccessforall.org