Traverse City has attracted the American Civil Liberties Union for two reasons – the need for judicial reform and the enthusiastic response of the members of the Grand Traverse community to address this need.
The ACLU is introducing their Smart Justice Campaign throughout the country. In Michigan there are organizers on the ground in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Traverse City. The first meeting of the Traverse City Smart Justice Campaign took place Thursday, February 28, 2019.
In attendance were members of several local agencies working to expose questionable prosecutorial actions and to improve our legislative processes. Others joined the committee because they have family members currently in prison.
A prime example of the injustice that has attracted the ACLU was the presence of two men who had been sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. They shared their stories – detailing how witnesses had been coerced into lying and important evidence was withheld during their trials. Part of their story can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuleAXbIBjM
One of the active organizations, BDAI – Before, During, and After Incarceration – works with the families of those incarcerated when a member is sent away to prison or when held locally in jail awaiting trial. Representatives of this group will be holding an event in the fall of 2019 to bring awareness to the necessity of criminal justice reform.
Over the next year the Smart Justice Campaign will work to reform bail and bond policies, to bring about changes in the sentencing process and to bring an awareness to incidents of prosecutorial discretion.
Unfortunately, most residents have no idea that Michigan has more incarcerations than any other state in the country. And, of all the cases presented to the courts, only 3% of them go to trial. The remaining 97% of cases are decided by the judges and the prosecutors. More than half the people in our jails have not been found guilty of a crime; they are there because they cannot pay their bond. The ACLU reports that Michigan taxpayers are charged more than $36,000 a year per inmate to hold these people until they go to trial. Frequently they plead guilty as the only way for them to return to their lives
All eighty-three Michigan prosecutors will be up for reelection in 2020. The Smart Justice Campaign will hold accountable those officials who are currently in office, advocate for people unjustly treated, and encourage citizen lobbyists to visit their legislators sharing stories and asking for policy change.
If you have a personal interest or simply are sympathetic to those tangled in an unfair network and want to help change the judicial system in our area, you can get involved by contacting the Smart
Justice Campaign Regional Field Organizer, Anna Dituri, at 231.590.1602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.