Traverse City News and Events

Addiction Getting Worse, So Bail Restrictions To Get More Severe

Sept. 5, 2015

People awaiting trial for serious crimes in Grand Traverse County should expect more scrutiny beginning in October. Requirements traditionally associated with post-conviction probation will soon also be ordered for many who are freed on pre-conviction bail.

The pre-trial services monitoring program, which has already been adopted at some larger downstate courts, is a reaction to the serious addictions suffered by so many defendants, says Sherise Shively, Grand Traverse County community corrections manager.

“They’re being supervised now, but we need to do something with people because their addictions are getting worse,” Shively says. “This is going to be a more intense supervision and it’s all based on a person’s risk.”

Current bail conditions typically include daily or random tests to check for alcohol or drug use. The new regime will add weekly or more often check-ins with caseworkers at community corrections and possibly GPS monitoring, which currently is only used for those already convicted of a crime.

Shively says the check-ins will be a chance to connect people with services and convince them to get addiction treatment sooner. The pre-trial services program will be used in felony cases and high-risk misdemeanor cases like stalking, domestic violence, aggravated assault, and second-offense drunk driving. The program will be funded through a state grant.

Four Traverse City criminal defense attorneys contacted by The Ticker say they have not heard of the changes. 

Shively expects there will likely be pushback,  because some will see it as a way to make it harder for defendants to stay out of jail. On the contrary, she says, the program is designed to keep people from jail and give them an opportunity to show they've made progress by the time they learn their fate from a judge.

“I want them to want to go to recovery meetings and to start engaging in recovery so they start to do better before they are sentenced,” she adds.

Magistrate Tammi Rodgers, who sets bail for defendants when their cases arrive in district court, says the program will be a welcome addition to the tools the court uses to monitor people who are at risk of causing more harm while they are awaiting trial.

“I view our (drug and alcohol) testing sites as sort of a check to make sure that the person is still here, hasn’t fled the area or the state, and they’re testing daily. It’s sort of reminding them that they’re on bond; they can’t screw up,” Rodgers says. “With the pre-trial services program that Sherise is going to run, that’s going to provide a daily check-in for some people; she’s going to be able to do a whole lot more.”

Shively says such a program has been needed for a while; it was just a matter of securing proper funding.

“There was no specific event; it was just something that we’ve talked about over the years,” Shively says. “You can’t just keep doing the same thing you’re doing. It’s not working.” 

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