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Harris opposes bills to allow resentencing for violent criminals

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(The Center Square) – Rep. Mike Harris, a retired police sergeant, opposes bills that aim to allow murderers, rapists and other violent offenders to reduce their prison sentences.

The House Criminal Justice Committee held a hearing on House Bills 4556, 4557, 4558, 4559, and 4560.

The “Second Look Sentencing Act” aims to allow sentence reconsideration for eligible prisoners who have served at least ten years of a sentence.

Harris, a Waterford Republican, opposed letting violent criminals out of prison early.

“Heinous crimes deserve severe punishment, and long — sometimes lifetime — prison sentences keep our communities safe from violent murderers and rapists,” Harris said in a statement. “This radical legislation could allow even the most dangerous criminals back on the streets early. This would be a grave injustice against victims and the people of Michigan. The extreme proposal threatens people’s safety and peace of mind and burdens the law enforcement officers responsible for ensuring public safety. I stand with victims and Michigan residents against this dangerous attempt to undermine our justice system.”

The bills aim to amend several mandatory provisions that now apply to sentencing and parole eligibility under certain circumstances, such as requiring life without parole eligibility for specified offenses to provide that those provisions do not apply to resentencing under the bill.

Nazgol Ghandnoosh, co-director of research at The Sentencing Project, told lawmakers Michigan has achieved a 38% decline in its prison population since 2006 but the state’s sentencing policies still result in excessive prison terms.

“Michigan is among only 12 states where two-thirds or more of the prison population are serving sentences of at least a decade,” a slideshow says. “Almost one-third of Michigan’s prison population has already served at least 10 years—a higher proportion than the national average.”

The presentation said many people facing lengthy prison sentences have already aged out of crime and no longer are a threat to the public.

Harris, a 26-year law enforcement veteran, said the bills would allow more than 7,450 murderers, 3,700 people convicted of criminal sexual conduct, and 1,800 armed robbers to seek a lower sentence after 10 years in prison, including 540 murderers, 343 sexual offenders, and 241 armed robbers convicted in Oakland County.

The bill package says the sentencing judge must lower a criminal’s sentence if it is “in the interest of justice” based on a low “preponderance of the evidence” threshold, taking into account a wide variety of factors.

Even if a request is denied, under the bill a criminal can continue requesting a lower sentence every two to five years.

“Violent criminals inflicted unimaginable harm and trauma on their victims,” Harris said. “Under this extreme legislation, criminals can make repeated, baseless requests for a lower sentence — triggering more rounds of filings and hearings and forcing their victims to relive their trauma over and over again. Crime victims and their families deserve better.”

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