Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Report and Recommendations


358,000 licenses were suspended for failure to appear and failure to pay fines and fees in 2018.

Michigan’s jail population has tripled from 1975 to 2016. To learn what led to this dramatic increase and identify alternatives, state and county leaders launched the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration in the spring of 2019. The Task Force examined 10 years of arrest data gathered from more than 600 law enforcement agencies across the state, 10 years of court data collected from nearly 200 district and circuit courts, and three years of individual-level admission data from a diverse sample of 20 county jails. This report includes key findings and 18 recommendations for state lawmakers to help reduce jail admissions.

You can read the full text here.

Key Findings:

  • Michigan’s jail population increased from an average of 5,700 in 1975 to 16,000 in 2016.
  • Jail growth has been driven by the incarceration of pretrial defendants and those serving a sentence post-conviction, not by increased crime in the state.
  • Driving without a valid license was the third most serious charge for jail admissions.
  • 23 percent of those entering jails had a severe mental illness, with higher percentages in rural counties. 
  • From 2008 to 2018, failure to appear was the second most common reason for arrest.
  • Officers in Michigan have the discretion to issue criminal citations in place of arrest; excluding traffic offenses, state police used criminal citations for 10 percent of arrests and 20 to 25 percent of the time for low-level misdemeanors in 2018. 
  • 65 percent of those admitted to jail stayed less than a week, but the 17 percent that stayed more than a month took up 82 percent of all the jail space.
  • For both the pretrial and post-conviction population,  the average length of stay was 11 days for misdemeanor offenses and 45 days for felony offenses.
  • Pretrial defendants served five days for misdemeanors and 11 days for felonies.
  • The population in rural jails grew from 15 percent in 1978 to 24 percent of the state’s jail population in 2016.
  • 10 percent of people in Michigan’s jails were detained for probation or parole violations.
  • In 2017, Michigan spent $478 million on county jails, and correction costs; in the same year counties spent a quarter of their public safety and justice systems budget on jails.
  • Criminal defendants pay over $418 million in fines, fees, court costs, and restitution annually. 


  • Eliminate driver’s license suspensions and reduce the use of bench warrants for failure to pay fines and fees and failure to appear.
  • Expand officer’s discretion to issue appearance tickets as an alternative to arrest for all misdemeanors, excluding domestic violence offenses.
  • Divert people with mental health and substance abuse needs away from the justice system.
  • Release all defendants on personal recognizance unless they pose a significant risk of nonappearance or bodily harm to an identifiable person. 
  • Address financial barriers by requiring courts to determine a person’s ability to pay fines and fees and offer alternatives such as community service who are unable to pay.
  • Standardize criminal justice data collection and reporting.  
Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration