Schuitmaker ‘specialty courts’ legislation signed by governor

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation that seeks to reduce recidivism and ensure that our state’s specialty courts employ proven, evidence-based practices was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday.

Senate Bills 435-438 were introduced to align state statute with recent changes adopted by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) that would instruct all specialty courts to have state certification beginning with Fiscal Year 2018.

“These courts are a great alternative to traditional judicial proceedings,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the package’s lead sponsor. “Rather than issuing a fine, or jailing an individual, these courts provide alternative options and unique, personalized care aimed at healing someone versus punishing them.”

These new laws will also improve the effectiveness of the state’s treatment courts by ensuring they employ practices that have been nationally recognized and proven to be effective.

Currently, specialty programs across the state are using various methods to achieve the end goal of rehabilitating an individual. While the SCAO provides recommendations based off of practices proven to be effective, there is nothing requiring specialty courts to follow them. The new laws create uniform guidelines that treatment courts across the state will implement to achieve better outcomes.

“We need to remember that specialty courts were created for a reason,” Schuitmaker said. “The focus should be on getting people the help they need instead of letting them get caught up in the criminal justice system. I am happy to see the new certification process signed into law and we can now ensure specialty courts throughout Michigan are following consistent guidelines and achieving the results they were created to achieve.”

SBs 435-438 are now Public Acts 161-164 of 2017.