Michigan Democrats want to give those convicted of murder, rape and other violent offenses a “Second Look” through legislation that could provide early release for thousands in state prisons.

The House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday held a 90-minute hearing on House bills 4556-4560, legislation that would create a process for nearly all convicted criminals to petition for a shorter sentences after only 10 years, including those sentenced to life behind bars.

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The hearing featured limited testimony from crime victims that trekked to Lansing to weigh in, focusing instead on providing “redemption” to convicted criminals that come disproportionately from just a handful of the state’s 83 counties.

“Michiganders want public safety in our communities, but House Democrats are pushing radical, unprecedented plans to let dangerous criminals roam our neighborhoods,” Richland Township Republican House Leader Matt Hall said in a statement.

“The Democrats’ newest, extreme proposal could release the most brutal murderers and rapists from prison and inject them back into our communities,” he said. “This horrifying legislation disregards victims and obliterates the safety that the people of Michigan deserve.”

Waterford Republican state Rep. Mike Harris, a retired 26-year police sergeant, noted the bills would allow more than 7,450 murderers, 3,700 convicted of criminal sexual conduct, and 1,800 armed robbers to seek a lower sentence after just 10 years in prison. More than 5,100 murderers would be immediately eligible.

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“Heinous crimes deserve severe punishment, and long – sometimes lifetime – prison sentences keep our communities safe from violent murderers and rapists,” Harris said. “This radical legislation could allow even the most dangerous criminals back on the streets early.

“This would be a grave injustice against victims and the people of Michigan. This extreme proposal threatens people’s safety and peace of mind and burdens law enforcement officers responsible for ensuring public safety,” he said. “I stand with victims and Michigan residents against this dangerous attempt to undermine our justice system.”

The legislation, touted by Democrats in both chambers when it was introduced last April, would allow a criminal, their attorney or the prosecutor to petition the sentencing judge for a sentencing reduction after serving at least 10 years.

The judge would be forced to consider the person’s age when the crime was committed and “research on brain development,” their history in prison, the person’s role in the crime, their current physical or mental health, and whether the inmate had ever been a victim of human trafficking or domestic abuse, among other factors. Only mass shooters are exempted, and a judge would only be able to deny a request from specific offenders, such as those who committed child sex crimes or human trafficking.

Those with health issues like asthma, diabetes, or other conditions granted a lower sentence would receive the rebuttable presumption that they should be immediately released for time served, Harris said.

Democrats have noted more than 30% of Michigan’s roughly 32,000 prisoners would be eligible based time served, including those serving mandatory life sentences for the most egregious crimes.

Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, described the “Second Look” bills as “smart legislation” when she introduced the measure alongside Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, and Rep. Jimmie Wilson, D-Ypsilanti, last spring.

“This policy will help reunite family members and provide a second chance for those who have served a significant amount of time in prison, changed themselves for the better, and have much to offer to our state,” she said.

Bill sponsors on Tuesday also pointed to the cost of incarceration, and a staffing shortage of roughly 1,500 in the Department of Corrections, as motivations to release prisoners.

“People are quitting, officers are committing suicide,” said committee chair Rep. Kara Hope, D-Holt.

“We’re looking at upwards of $70,000 annually in locking people up who are in very late stages of their lives,” alleged House Majority Leader Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Detroit.

Hope argued the legislation would save “hundreds of millions” for taxpayers, despite a House fiscal analysis that found “the bills would have an indeterminate fiscal impact.”

“Costs to local courts would be incurred depending on the number of petitions filed for reductions in sentences, and, subsequently, the number of resentencing hearings that would occur for incarcerated individuals found to be eligible for resentencing,” the analysis read.

While “reduced sentences would result in reduced costs to the state correctional system,” that cost is roughly $48,700 per prisoner per year, according to the analysis, rather than the $70,000 figure cited by Aiyash. Other data from American Friends Service Committee shows the average age of those who would be eligible for a “Second Look” is 51.5, while total annual corrections spending is about $2.1 billion.

“A handful of Michigan’s 83 counties would have the most people eligible for Second Look,” according to the social justice advocacy group. “Over 3,200 people from Wayne County, which includes Detroit, would be eligible. Oakland County (with 740 people) and Genesee County (with 488) follow.”

Former assistant attorney general Rep. Graham Filler, R-St. Johns, repeatedly pushed back during the committee hearing that the new standards are in “the interest of justice.”

“The focus of these bills is clearly to improve the lives of Michigan’s worst criminals, not to make our state safer,” he said in a statement. “A lot of thought has been put into Michigan’s sentencing laws over the years to make sure our most dangerous criminals stay behind bars for at least a set minimum number of years.

“But this plan would undo those long-standing laws and tilt everything in favor of the criminals and against the rest of us,” Filler said. “That’s not how our criminal justice system is supposed to work.”

The House Criminal Justice Committee did not vote on the legislation Tuesday, but could revisit the bills on April 23.