2020 Quarter 4 | The Council of State Governments (CSG) | Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) Criminal Justice and Public Safety (CJPS) Committee

MLC Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Newsletter
In This Issue
Committee Happenings
CSG Justice Center Update
Criminal Justice News
Important Dates
*All times are Central Time

December 17: 

January 19, 2021: 

January 26-29, 2021: 

January 28, 2021: 

February 2, 2021: 

Thursdays, February 11-March 11, 2021: 

February 22-26, 2021: 

February 23, 2021: 

July 11-14, 2021:

July 30-August 3, 2021:

August 20-24, 2021:
CSG Henry Toll Fellowship Program - Lexington, KY 

September 24-25, 2021: 

December 1-4, 2021: 
CSG National Conference - Santa Fe, NM
Quick Links
It's hard to believe that the 2019-2020 biennium is almost over. While most of us only got the chance to meet once, at the 2019 MLC Meeting in Chicago, it was a great pleasure to discuss, write about, and follow all of your vital work on criminal justice and public safety policy. I would like to thank all of you for patience while working with me during my first two years at CSG Midwest. I would especially like to thank the MLC CJPS Committee Officers; North Dakota Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, Illinois Sen. Mattie Hunter, and Indiana Sen. Michael Crider, for the many hours they have spent preparing for and leading the committee's various virtual events during this most unusual year. 

For those legislators retiring or leaving the legislature, thank you for your service to your state and to this committee, and best of luck on your future endeavors. For those returning in the 2020-2021 legislative biennium, letters requesting appointments to the MLC Committees will be sent to legislative leaders shortly after the first of the year. 

Finally, as 2020 reaches its end, it is important to look back on what was accomplished in the Midwestern region and what can be built upon going forward. We have created a compilation of articles that have appeared in the publication Stateline Midwest in 2020 on policies related to criminal justice and public safety, including police reform, drug possession sentencing, and felon voting rights. 

As always, if you have any news that you would like to share with the CJPS committee, such as committee appointments or legislative 
updates, please reach out to Mitch Arvidson

Happy holidays and we hope to see you in-person July11-14, 2021, in Rapid City, South Dakota, for the 76th Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference! 

As legislators, you know how important it is to have accurate, accessible data and information. You also know that it can be difficult to find that information, especially when it comes to the criminal justice system with hundreds of jurisdictions in every state. The CSG Justice Center also knows this. The Justice Center's newest initiative, Justice Counts, is a national, consensus-building initiative bringing together an unprecedented coalition of state and local leaders that will collaborate to: 
  1. Broadly scan public, aggregate-level criminal justice data in all 50 states to provide policymakers with timely information about their criminal justice systems, existing gaps in data collection, and opportunities for improvement; 
  2. Develop and build consensus around a set of key criminal justice metrics that drive budget and policy decisions; 
  3. Create a range of tools and resources that will enable policymakers and criminal justice practitioners to examine current practices and adopt the data metrics; and 
  4. Encourage states and localities to make the new data metrics part of their day-to-day operations and provide selected states with technical assistance. 
Learn more about the Justice Counts initiative

The Justice Center has also been tracking how COVID-19 is affecting the nation's corrections population, discovering a disturbing trend. As jail populations decrease across the country due to the release of low risk detainees, the number of people in jails with mental illnesses have stayed the same, if not increased. The Justice Center recently spoke with local officials in Douglas County, Kansas, and San Luis Obispo County, California to find out what may be behind this trend. This occurred, in part, because area homeless shelters, sober-living houses, and state hospitals stopped taking new admissions. 

Watch this ~3 minute video from the Justice Center to learn more. 

Michigan Passes Expungement Package 
Seven bipartisan bills signed into law this fall will give hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents the chance to have their criminal records expunged, a move that legislative supporters say will remove barriers to employment and housing opportunities. Among the changes in HB 4980 - 4985 and HB 5120
  • Creating an automatic process for setting aside eligible misdemeanors after seven years and eligible non-assault felonies after 10 years; 
  • Expanding the types of felonies and misdemeanors eligible to be expunged; 
  • Treating multiple felonies or misdemeanor offenses arising from the same transaction as a single felony or misdemeanor conviction, provided the offenses happened within 24 hours of one another, were not assault crimes, and did not involve possession or use of a dangerous weapon; 
  • Ensuring that people with past marijuana convictions can have those convictions set aside if the behavior that led to the conviction would be permissible under current state law (the use of recreational marijuana is now legal in Michigan). 
Michigan Rep. Graham Filler, who helped lead work on this legislative package, wrote last year in Stateline Midwest about the impact that these measures could have on individual residents. "People whose criminal records are cleared tend to experience a sharp upturn in their wage and employment trajectories," he wrote. According to the Restoration of Rights Project, state laws vary widely on expungement - for example, some allow no records to be closed, others only allow for the expungement of misdemeanors. 

Cook County Jail COVID-19 Cases Backslide After Summer Downturn 
Cook County Jail, located in Chicago, Illinois 
In April of this year, the Cook County Jail in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood made national news when 307 inmates tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, this made the jail the country's hardest hit single location. Working quickly, county officials reduced the jail's population from 5,500 to 4,000 by releasing detainees deemed low risk to public safety and those with high health risks. This allowed the jail to spread out and socially distance the remaining detainees, with 66% in single cells. These actions led to only a few dozen positive cases during the summer. 

Unfortunately, cases have recently spiked to even higher levels than April. On December 7, 370 detainees tested positive. County officials and advocates say high arrests due to civil unrest over the summer and the slow transfer of detainees to state-run facilities has increased Cook County Jail's population to levels not seen since February, with only 38% of detainees in single cells. 

The Chicago Sun Times has more coverage. 

Indiana Expands Mental Health and Addiction Services 
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Division of Mental Health and Addiction established its Recovery Works program in 2015 as a voucher-based system to connect those involved in the criminal justice system with mental health and addiction treatment. Since its inception, the program only connected health and substance use treatment to those with felony charges and convictions. However, Recovery Works will now be expanded to allow for Indiana residents charged with, or convicted of, misdemeanor offenses to receive services. The pilot program will be led by 20 treatment providers in 26 Indiana counties. 

To learn more about the Recovery Works program, click here
Thank you for reading. Watch for the next edition to come out in 
March 2021
Missed a newsletter? Past issues are archived on the committee's webpage.
Please do not reproduce or create new content from this material without the prior express written permission of CSG Midwest.