News Story

‘You’ve Paid Your Debt To Society — Now Pay $10,000’

State of Michigan charges offenders up to $135 per month for probation and parole

Two bills being considered in the Michigan House Judiciary Committee would reduce the maximum monthly fee the state Department of Corrections can charge an individual who is on probation or parole.

Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, said he introduced the legislation after receiving a letter from a constituent whose brother was placed on parole for two years. During that time, the man racked up more than $10,000 in fees, which he owed to the Department of Corrections.

Brann said that having to pay such a substantial fee after doing one’s time in the corrections system would be disheartening.

“The way it’s working now, it’s not working,” Brann said, “Six percent compliance — it’s not working now.”

House bills 4031 and 4032 would cap at $30 the monthly “supervision fee” the state Department of Corrections can charge someone on probation or parole, respectively. The current maximum fee is $135 per month. The bills would also cap fees for anyone with an electronic surveillance device (such as a tether) at $60 per month. A judge could waive all fees in cases of extreme poverty.

The Department of Corrections supports the bills, according to legislative liaison Kyle Kaminski, because it believes they introduce a more realistic fee structure. The department hopes that as a result, more individuals on probation and parole will pay their supervision fees.

“This approach will reduce the amount of fees that are ultimately sent to collections, which undermine returning citizens’ efforts to find jobs and reach self-sufficiency,” Kaminski said.

The department currently collects about 6 to 10 percent of the supervision fees it imposes. Brann said that he hopes his legislation will cause the compliance rate to increase to between 20 and 25 percent.

Brann said he doesn’t think that lowering the legal maximum fee will reduce the total amount the state collects for supervision. While the department would bring in less per individual, he said, a higher compliance rate would mean the department collects roughly the same amount as it does now. The department took in $5.5 million in supervision fees in fiscal year 2018.

Kahryn Riley, director of criminal justice reform at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said that loading individuals coming out of the criminal justice system with a pile of debt is not in the interest of society.

“These fees are justified as ‘user fees’ that are appropriate to impose on people who have committed crimes, but that’s misguided. The true beneficiary of criminal justice services is society at large,” Riley said. “These fees are counterproductive to our goal of ensuring that offenders never commit another crime and become productive taxpayers.”