Many of us that practice law decided to do so because we did not want to deal with numbers. As any good criminal lawyer will tell you, numbers can be manipulated. Still, when statistics are clear, the court officers need to examine the numbers, no matter how ugly that may appear. In Michigan, we are in a time of crisis in our criminal justice system. With COVID-19 creating a new normal, we see time for a change. Sadly, one difference that is not present is the number of black men and women behind bars. Depending upon one’s political affiliation, a subjective slant is presented. President Donald Trump has called for more significant incarceration while leaders such as Bernie Sanders have called for “Restorative Justice,” a term that is opened to interpretation. To understand the numbers, the issues, and the current state of events, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in Michigan.
Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Washtenaw County, Michigan. McManus is known as one of the top legal minds in Michigan and provided insight into the numbers. McManus said, “The data is startling. In our state, black people make up 15% of the population and 53% of the prison population at the Michigan Department of Corrections. Whatever argument you make, the numbers show a clear problem with our system. Those numbers are hard to believe at first glance, but when you study the issue and break things down by county, the issue becomes one of tragedy instead of legislation.”
Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and has built a reputation as one of the top family lawyers in Michigan. Kelley added to the McManus commentary when she said, “With a black population of 15% in Michigan, 37% of black defendants are in our jails. While those numbers are disturbing, it becomes even more horrifying when you study the difference between prison and jail. There is a reason why the numbers are more disproportionately in prison than in jail. We have a serious issue that needs to be addressed.”