Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Wednesday her appointments to the state’s new Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which the Democratic governor established last month by executive order.
Among her notable selections are Craig DeRoche (R-Novi), a Republican former Michigan House speaker, and former state Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker).
The new task force, which is expected to begin meeting over the summer, aims to find bipartisan policy solutions for the state’s criminal justice system. It will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack.
“We need to take meaningful steps to reform our criminal justice system, because the number of people in local jails has tripled over the last 35 years, but crime rates in Michigan are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years,” Whitmer said in a statement.
“This task force is an opportunity to see how we can make the system better for the people of our state and make Michigan an example for the country on jail and pretrial reform.”
DeRoche, who served as House speaker from 2005 to 2007, was appointed as an “individual recognized as a faith leader or a community leader,” a role mandated by Whitmer’s executive order.
DeRoche is currently the senior vice president for advocacy and public policy at Christian criminal justice reform organization the Prison Fellowship. That group was founded by Charles Colson, a former top aide to President Richard Nixon who served prison time for his role in the Watergate scandal.
VerHeulen, meanwhile, was forced to leave office in 2018 due to term limits. He’s currently a Kent County road commissioner and was appointed as an “individual recognized as a community leader or a business leader.”
Whitmer also appointed various county commissioners, county prosecutors and criminal justice reform advocates to serve on the panel. All appointments run through Sept. 30, 2020.
The remainder of the task force is composed of Attorney General Dana Nessel and a group of other members appointed by McCormack and legislative leaders, as directed in Whitmer’s order. They include:
- Judge Prentis Edwards, Jr. of the 3rd Circuit Court of Wayne County, appointed by McCormack.
- Judge Thomas P. Boyd of the 55th District Court of Ingham County, appointed by McCormack.
- State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake)
- State Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), appointed by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint).
- State Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden), appointed by House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).
- State Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Detroit), appointed by House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills).