criminal justice

More local governments are getting money to create better systems to make sure every criminal defendant has a properly trained lawyer through every step of the legal process.

Local courts resubmitted their proposals after the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission rejected most of the funding requests back in January.  This time, most of the re-worked plans won board approval.

Judge Thomas Boyd is a commission member. He said the need to ensure adequate representation is so great, the board must make sure none of the money is wasted.

Morgan Springer

It’s been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court said states across the country had to reconsider the sentences of nearly 2,000 juvenile lifers. But not much has changed in Michigan since that January 2016 ruling for most of those prisoners.

Michigan had the second-largest juvenile lifer population in the country – with more than 360. So far, only 30 percent of juvenile lifers have been resentenced. Antonio Espree is one of them.

 


Aaron Selbig

A special prosecutor will handle a jail suicide case in Grand Traverse County. The state attorney general has appointed the Antrim County prosecutor to take over.

Alan Halloway hanged himself in the Grand Traverse County jail last summer. An investigation by Michigan State Police found that corrections officers violated multiple policies and procedures. For example, it took officers three hours to find Halloway dead in his cell; they were supposed to check him every hour. 

Stock photo

Starting this year, minors found in possession of alcohol will get a little more leniency under the law. The consequences defined by Michigan’s minor is possession or MIP law changed January 1st.

Courtesy of Penni Johnson

 

He was born April 29th, 1976. His parents named him James Dean Fuson.

James’ mom died when he was seven, and his dad left the picture after that. His maternal grandparents, Delores and Wallace Bach, raised him alongside his aunt, Penni, in southwest Detroit.

In the beginning, he called them Granny and Pee Wee. Then teenage self-consciousness got the better of him, and he switched to Grandma and Gramps.

“I was eight years older than him,” says his aunt Penni Bach Johnson. “And I remember I used to babysit him a lot. I used to change his diapers. He was like my little brother.”

Morgan Springer

 

(Editor’s note: we recommend you listen to the story.)

In March 2001, Fred Williams left his friend Tanya Davis’ house to get groceries. He was 17 and living on the west side of Detroit. Fred says he weighed two options before he left.

“I had Hometown Groceries on Joy Road and Wyoming,” Fred recalls, “or I had Foodarama on Livernois and Julian.”

Fred chose Foodarama because he could buy spaghetti ingredients and make a drug sale at the same time. He’d been selling drugs for about three years – mostly as a “corner boy” selling for someone else.

Lakeland Correctional Facility

 

(Editor’s Note: We recommend you listen to this story.)

Mark Smith was 17 when he shot and killed another teenager. He got the mandatory sentence – life without parole. But that didn’t mean Mark stopped living life.

Twenty years into his incarceration, Mark started corresponding with a straight-laced, Canadian woman named Dawn Dietrich. 

 

(Editor’s note: we recommend you listen to this story.) 

Jose Burgos was 16 years old when he shot and killed Omar Kaji. It happened during a bogus drug deal in 1991 in southwest Detroit. 

“The whole plan was, we’re going to make it look like – from the outside looking in – there’s 10 pounds of marijuana in this bag,” says Jose.

It's called "pay or stay:" jailing people who can't afford to pay a fine.

It's a controversial issue nationwide. Critics say pay or stay sentencing has created a 21st-century version of debtors' prisons.

In May of 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court announced rule changes designed to keep people out of jail just because they cannot pay court fines. But a Bridge Magazine investigation finds that's exactly what's happening in the weekly collections docket at the 36th District Court in Detroit.

Expanding Medicaid was a key part of the Affordable Care Act. In our state, it's known as Healthy Michigan, and it has meant health care coverage for more than 600,000 people.

But if you wind up in the criminal justice system, even if its just pre-trial detention, Medicaid benefits turn off immediately.

Researchers at the University of Michigan say excluding inmates from Medicaid is driving up costs and hurting the health of inmates.