Reducing Time Served for Non-Violent Offenders

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Media Artifact


2. Persona and POV statement Persona: Persona name: Carrie Smith Age: 17 School/occupation: Detroit Public Schools student Location: Detroit, MI   Quote: "I'm just trying to graduate"   About:
  • Lives with her dad, step mom and brother
  • Works after school at Wendy's and sells a small amount of drugs for extra money
  • Her and her friends are involved in selling drugs but none have graduated to holding weapons or commiting violent actions.
  • Wants to graduate from highschool and get a good paying job afterwards to help support both her and her family
  • Trying to stay out of the trouble but doesn't know how to make enough money without selling drugs
  • Wants to keep spending time with her friends and make a better life for herself


POV Statement:
  • User Carrie, a good mannered teen who sometimes gets caught up in a bad crowd...
  • Need needs to stay on track to graduate and remain elligable for college or a job afterwards...
  • Insight but there are a lot of outside pressures concerning drugs or theft that could derail her from obtaining the future she wants. 


3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Instead of sending people directly to prison, take non-violent offenders and enroll them in a rehabilitation program. One that focuses on getting people back on their feet as opposed to a quick program that doesn't help them in the long run.

SOLUTION 2: Enroll more offenders in community service programs that will connect them with people in their area that could help them once their requirement is fulfilled.

SOLUTION 3: Many people thrust into the prison system have a form of mental illlness that, once incarcerated, never recieves proper treatment and often gets worse. Sending people to treatment facilities, instead of sending them to a cell, is more likely to find long term solutions to their ailments.



Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

This bill, is similar in the sense that it is aiming to change guidelines for young offenders entering the correctional ayatem. However I was unable to find a bill that followed closely in tandem with exactly what my proposal is aiming to change.

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal is aiming to help many young offenders who have commited a crime but who have not graduated to holding a weapon or firearm. This proposal is looking to establish a much lower incarceration rate and sentencing guideline for "non-violent", aka those not in possession of a weapon, offenders. This will most likely aid lower income families, and families in the Detroit and Pontiac areas of Michigan the most, but will continue to have an impact all across the state.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

I had done some research papers on the prison system in highschool and had wanted to take what I knew and apply it in a different way. I also wanted to learn about a different side of the prison system than I had previously researched.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

My service activity has allowed me to connect with a variety of people who had many different experiences than I had. This allowed me to think differently when asking people for consultations and my general process for writing my proposal.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Media Artifact


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Anonymous - was in contact with a student at U of M who lived in the heart of a city and was exposed to a "carrie" type of issue on a daily basis. They saw many of their friends get sucked into a cyclical trend of selling drugs to help support both themselves and their families. They are a big proponent of lessening non-violent drug crime sentences (as stated by them: those without a weapon) and claim that the sentences should start very very small and then increase for repeat offenders. They have seen people who got caught for selling drugs stop selling and using all toghether afterwards. However, in the majority of cases they observed after emerging from prison these people would go right back into selling and then get involved with guns and weapons.

CONSULTATION 2: Hannah Craig - Hannah is a Junior at U of M who previously worked at a public defenders program. She is also writing the "Incarcerated Youth Literacy Project" Proposal under the youth criminal justice topic. She gave me great insights about the vocabulary of my proposal and how it could be improved to be more inclusive. She mentioned the possibility of some youths wanting to be in jail because of better access to food etc, something I had not considered before. 

CONSULTATION 3: Prospective Law student at U of M - I was in contact with a student planning to study law who has done research on many occastions on the impacts of youth in prisons and the prison system as a whole. They helped to flesh out a lot of the financial side of my proposal and its application process. They also helped with some of the long term implications of switching to a correctional program focused on overcoming drug addiction not "serving time".


Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Jillian Goldstone gave me very direct and constructive feedback regarding my persona and POV statement. Before her comments "Carrie" was not as fleshed out of a persona and had left some things to be desired in relation to the proposal as a whole. After reading her comments I tailored her persona to be more in tune with how my proposal had developed over the term.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

My initial research was very factual and cost driven. I was focusing on issues that had data to support it and I was neglecting to really narrow down my proposal and exactly how it would benefit people. My research process was most changed by my consultations. I have had no experience firsthand with the prison system and getting in contact with people who had made my process and approach to this issue change from a one sided view to a more whollistic encompassing view. My consultations pointed out many flaws and some ways I could incorporate other sides into my proposal. My research helped with the financial and statistical side but I believe my consultations gave me the biggest edge when writing this proposal. 

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?  - N/A


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... People incarcerated for nonviolent offenses are put in prison with many other criminals that have experience committing violent crimes. These people can, instead of recover, learn from these other incarcerees and continue committing similar or more violent offenses when they are released.

WHEREAS.... Instead of getting support for drug addiction or other kind of substance abuse, these offenders are put in a system where their issues are overlooked and they will go right back to using and selling the second they are released.

WHEREAS.... Mental illness is severly overlooked in the prison system and people often face judgement and lack of care while incarcerated. These illnesses often get worse while being neglected in prison and after being released.

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


1. Money would be saved from the correctional budget and be able to be applied to other programs that would be more effective in reducing the recidivism rate, the end goal.

2. People wouldn't be incarcerated in the first place and not lose valuable time in their lives where they could benefit their communities. Without being incarcerated in the first place offenders would not learn from, or build a network with, other criminals in prison nor would their families struggle if their sole breadwinner was taken away for an extended period of time.

3. By being placed in programs that are focused on their inidvidual struggles, be it mental illness, drug abuse, etc, offenders would get the help they need to return to their communities with a plan. Instead of returning to their communities with no plan and therefore returning back to the lifestyles that caused them to get incarcerated in the first place, offenders will have recieved treatment that connected them with support groups and reconnected them to the parts of their lives that would benefit them in the long run. 

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Some people need to undergo an incarceration based corrections process in order to be able to "right their wrongs" both to society and themselves.

2. People may not see the value in alternatives to prison as impactful resources to help offenders get back on their feet. 

3.They may believe the current issues of the mass incarceration system are unfixable and useless.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?

The average cost per inmate per year is $31,286 to maintain in the US (Vera). Of the current incarcerated inmates 1 out of every 4 are for non-violent offenses (Time). 40 states were surveyed in 2010 and were recorded to spend $39 billion dollars in maintaining the prisons. This was 5.4 billion dollars over their proposed budget (Vera). In total there are around 2.2 million people incercerated in the US (PPI). For estimation purposes, if roughly half of the nonviolent offenders are not entered into the prison system it would save the $8,603,650,000 US dollars a year [31,286*(2,200,000*0.125)]. If we estimate this money in terms of the state of Michigan we get $172,073,000 [$8,603,650,000/50]. This money saved could be put into other forms of corrections that would reduce the recidivism rate. For example, rehab, community service programs, mental health counseling, educational programs. 



These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.







  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Total votes: 21