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Senate subcommittee approves Bizon budget bills

LANSING, Mich. — A Senate panel on Wednesday approved fiscal year 2022 budget bills sponsored by Sen. John Bizon, M.D. that would provide marginal spending increases to the state’s corrections and judiciary budgets.

“One of my main goals in these budgets is to look at previous spending and fund programs that will provide positive long-term outcomes for both offenders and taxpayers,” said Bizon, R-Battle Creek, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections and Judiciary. “I am particularly thankful that at this point in the process, we have been able to fund the corrections budget without closing any prisons.

“Money will be allocated for hiring and training, employee wellness programs and reducing recidivism. I am hopeful we can soon begin negotiations on these budgets after final approval in the Senate.”

Highlights of Senate Bill 80, the Michigan Department of Corrections budget, include a one-time increase of $7.37 million over the current fiscal year budget for the hiring and training of an estimated 800 correctional officers annually; $809,400 to support additional employee wellness resources and support services for department employees; and $825,000 aimed at helping former offenders improve their lives.

“The $825,000 we allocated will go toward three critical programs,” Bizon said. “These include Chance for Life, an evidence-based mentoring program that emphasizes job training, life skills, and family reintegration; Goodwill Flip the Script, which provides job placement assistance for recently released prisoners; and Kalamazoo County Post Release Care Pilot Program, which provides care management post-release.”

Highlights of SB 81, the judiciary budget, include a $600,000 increase in funding for the Problem Solving Courts, which offer judicial programs that provide alternatives to imprisonment for nonviolent criminal offenders with substance use disorders and mental illnesses; a $386,000 funding increase for the Judicial Tenure Commission to ensure that misconduct claims against judges are thoroughly investigated and concluded in a timely manner; and a $200,000 funding increase for the Michigan Legal Self Help website, which provides forms and self-help guides enabling residents to solve many common legal issues themselves.

SBs 80 and 81 now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.