Early in office, the governor dismantled many of the reforms that former Governor Jennifer Granholm had put in place. Under her Director of the Department of Corrections (Patricia Caruso), Michigan was a nationwide leader in cutting its prison population. This movement was criticized by the prosecutors as getting soft on crime. When Governor Snyder entered office, he dismantled many of his predecessor’s reforms. He is now seeing the wisdom in this programs. One of the unfortunate aspects of term limits is that many politicians are often forced to relearn hard learned lessons. Getting tough on crime is superficially appealing, but it doesn’t work. It breaks state budgets, does not deter crime, and often increases violence. I am delighted that Governor Snyder is finally learning his lesson and can only hope that his successor does not have to repeat the process yet again.
Thankfully, this does not seem to be the case in this election. While there are general references to “protecting Michigan families,” the economy rather than getting tough on crime seems to be the main theme of this election.
Michigan Court of Appeals Holds that a Discretionary Trust is Not Subject to SCFRA Reimbursement Suit
In 1989, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a discretionary trust was exempt from attachment under the related Mental Health Reimbursement Act. Miller v Dep’t of Mental Health, 432 Mich 426, 430; 442 NW2d 617 (1989). In State Treasurer v Isabelle Skaff Trust, Court of Appeals No. 291306, the Court of Appeals applied that ruling to SCFRA and held that a properly drafted discretionary trust could avoid SCFRA liability as well.
The decision should be consulted carefully in drafting any such trust, but the discretionary trust appears to be the best option out there for a family member to provide some support to a prisoner/relative without just gifting the money to the state. The State Treasurer will be challenging any such trust and they should be drafted by an expert.
Congratulations to must friend and colleague Patrick Levine Rose over at michapp.com for noticing this important, but unpublished ruling. Note because the ruling is not published, it is not binding on subsequent panels, but it appears the best strategy so far for preserving some assets for a prisoner’s community based reintegration.
New York Governor Cuomo Says that Prisons Should Not be Used as a "Jobs Program" for Depressed Parts of the State.
Like Michigan, New York has an out-of-control budget which it needs to reign in. Like Michigan, its Department of Corrections consumes the largest part of the State budget. New York has therefore decided to undertake a program similar to the Granholm administration and close prisons and focus on more community based treatment. New York Communities are fighting back arguing that people need to be incarcerated so that other people can have jobs. Governor Cuomo said:
"An incarceration program is not an employment program," Cuomo insisted. "If people need jobs, let's get people jobs. Don't put other people in prison to give some people jobs. Don't put other people in juvenile justice facilities to give some people jobs. That's not what this state is all about. And that has to end this session."
North Country Public Radio in New York has an excellent segment on this issue which was rebroadcast yesterday on Michigan Public Radio. The story could just as easily be about Michigan. Closing prisons takes courage. This is particularly true when Michigan Attorney General Schuette campaigned for office promising to reopen these prisons. Hopefully the “accountant” in Governor Snyder will agree with Governor Cuomo. Colleges and Universities, small business leaders, and many other organizations have all urged Governor Snyder to continue with this approach lobbying under the label of the “Corrections Reform Coalition.” An article in MLive suggests that Governor Snyder may continue with many of Governor Granholm’s reforms
The Great Recession Has Forced a New Exploration of Rehabilitation Instead of Retribution in Sentencing
Michigan Legislature is Considering Limited Restoration of Good Time, Disciplinary Credits, or Something Similar
At Detroit Free Press article reported on November 18th that Governor Granholm stated that she would support some form of good time restoration. To read former Correction Director Robert Brown’s presentation on the cost of Michigan’s Truth in Sentencing Bill, click here. To read the Legislative Summary of the Bill, click here. Click here to visit the Friends of George Cushingberry Blog which contains some information on this bill.
Saturday’s New York Times reports that Arizona is considering privatizing nine of its ten prisons. While states have privatized some of its prisons, this will be the first time that a state considers such a wide spread attempt at privatization.
In the last of three plenary cases decided yesterday, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a state to bar all damage lawsuits brought under federal civil rights law against prison officers or guards, allowing instead only a claim against the state itself in a special claims court. Justice Stevens wrote for a 5-4 majority striking down a New York law as a violation of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Haywood v. Drown, SCOTUS No. 07-10374.