Timeline Shows Area Counties Follow Different Patterns for Felony Sentencing

Throughout this series on data for felony offenders sentenced in Southeastern Michigan we’ve focused on the percentage of offenders sentenced to prison, jail, a combination of jail and probation, or probation. This post allows us to further examine what trends there may be in sentencing in each of the seven counties. This data was provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections and focuses on years 2011 and 2017; the data prior to 2011 was reported differently and therefor not included.

The first chart below shows how Macomb County has consistently had the lowest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison since 2011, and that percentage has been decreasing in recent years. Similar to Macomb County, most of the other counties in the region have recently experienced a decrease in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison. Washtenaw County experienced the largest decrease in felony offenders sentenced to prison between 2011 and 2017; that percentage decreased from 23.7 percent to 18 percent.  In that same time frame Oakland and St. Clair counties both experienced increases in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison. For Oakland County the percentage increased from 19 percent to 20.1 percent and for St. Clair County the percentage increased from 15.4 percent to 18.7 percent.

The chart below shows the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to jail in Southeastern Michigan between 2011 and 2017. Consistently in this time frame, St. Clair County sentenced the highest percentage of offenders to jail and Wayne County sentenced the lowest percentage of offenders. In St. Clair County there has been a slow increase in the percentage of offenders sentenced to jail, from 32.7 percent in 2011 to 39.7 percent in 2017. There has also been an increase in the percentage of offenders sentenced to jail in Livingston County between 2011 and 2017; there was an increase from 20.8 percent to 24.3 percent. None of the counties have seen an overall decrease in the percentage off felony offenders sentenced to jail since 2011, with the exception of Monroe County. In 2011 14.4 percent of felony offenders were sentenced to jail in Monroe County and in 2017 that number decreased to 13.7 percent.

The chart below shows that Monroe County has consistently had the highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to a jail/probation combination since 2011. The chart also shows that Washtenaw and Oakland counties have been increasing the percentage of felony offenders they’ve sentenced to a jail/probation combination. In 2011, 23.6 percent of felony offenders in Washtenaw County were sentenced to the jail/probation combination and by 2017 that number increased to 31.3 percent. For Oakland County, 39.5 percent of the felony offender population was sentenced to a jail/probation combination and by 2017 that number increased to 47.8 percent.

Wayne County consistently sentenced the lowest percentage of offenders to the jail/probation combination between 2011 and 2017.

The probation chart below shows several patterns, the first being that Wayne County has consistently sentenced the highest percentage of felony offenders to probation since 2011. Not only has Wayne County consistently sentenced the highest percentage of offenders to probation, but this sentencing form also has the largest difference between the county with the highest sentencing percentage (Wayne) and the lowest (Monroe County).

Oakland County experienced the largest decrease in the percentage of offenders sentenced to probation between 2011 and 2017. In 2011, 16.3 percent of felony offenders were sentenced probation and by 2017 that number decreased to 4.5 percent. Livingston County also experienced a decrease, from 16.3 percent to 6.4 percent. Macomb, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties also experienced minor decreases in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to probation.

Overall, this post highlights •A decrease in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to probation; •A general decrease in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison; •General increases in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to jail and a jail/probation combination.

Additionally, these charts highlight the trends counties tend to adhere to in sentencing. This is helpful in understanding what counties’ criminal justice priorities are and where the may money to fund the criminal justice system in each county is flowing.

Finally, this post highlights that counties follow strikingly different strategies relative to corrections, demonstrating how the criminal justice system in this state is fragmented.

The Difference in Sentencing for Convicted Felons

As this series over the last few weeks has highlighted, there are several different approaches to sentencing a felon, some of which are more common than others. For example, sentencing a felon to community service or restitution is highly uncommon, whether the individual has been convicted of a non-assaultive, assaultive or drug related felony. Prison time, jail time, a combination of jail and probation and then just probation are other sentencing options. For certain offenses, such as murder, prison time is required, and for other offenses, along with what the inmate’s criminal record is, other sentencing options may be viable.  

When an individual is sentenced to prison it means that they have been sentenced to spend at least a year in a correctional facility, whether it be controlled by the state or the federal government. Michigan has indeterminate sentencing, which means that an offender is sentenced with a minimum and maximum term of years to spend in prison. According to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, in 2015 it cost between $32,000 and $38,000 a year to house an inmate, which includes probation/parole supervision and nonoperational overhead. Currently, Michigan’s prison population is at a 20-year low but expenses to house inmates and operate a jail continue to rise, in part due to rising health care costs and the aging prison population.

Those sentenced to jail time, or who spend time in jail, are either awaiting trial or sentencing or have been sentenced to serve a small amount of time. Jails in Michigan are under the jurisdiction of the county, not the state or the federal government. This means that the cost to house an inmate comes from the County budget. In Michigan there is also pay-to-stay policies in some county jails. According to a 2018 news story, jail inmates are charged between $20 and $60 a day at some county jails throughout Michigan. County jails too are facing rising costs with aging infrastructure being a large contributing factor. New jails are also being built in Michigan, some of which are reducing the number of beds though as a new approach to the criminal justice system begins to take hold.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, probation has been the primary form of supervision for felons in Michigan more than 100 years. The department states one of the reasons this is such a common form of sentencing is because it achieves public protection by assisting the offender in becoming a productive member of society. In order for such success to be achieved, the offender must be willing to participate and programs must be available. The typical felony probation is at least 18 months in length. According to the United States Courts, the annual cost of detaining a prisoner is much more significant than the cost of placing them on supervision. In Wayne County, officials stated that incarceration rates at the county jail facilities have decreased in recent years due to more offenders being placed on tether monitoring systems, which is part of a probation sentence. This approach costs less per offender than housing them in jail, according to Wayne County officials, but specific costs were not identified.

Recently, there has been a push to reevaluate the criminal justice system. In Michigan, for example a Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration was created to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s criminal justice system. According to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the jail population in Michigan has almost tripled in the last 30 years, despite crime rates being at a 20-year low. According to the Prison Policy Initiative there was about 225 prisoners incarcerated per 100,000 in 1985 and that increased to about 600 prisoners per 100,000 people in 2015. Discussions to decrease incarceration rates include increasing pre-trial services and better determining what treatment and programs may suit an individual better than jail time. If this approach does occur, future trends would reflect an increase in the probation and the “other” category and a decrease in incarceration rates. 

Next week we will take a deeper look as to how the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to either prison, jail, probation or other community service and treatment based alternatives has changed over the last decade. 

Prison Most Common Sentence for Felony Assaults

As part of the annual Michigan Department of Corrections report assaultive felony offensives are also examined to better understand what percentage of the  offenders are sentenced to either prison, jail, probation, community service or another combination. According to the data, prison sentences tended to be the most common. Monroe County had the highest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to prion at 39.6 percent. Wayne County had the second highest sentencing rate at 36.6 percent and Macomb County had the lowest rate at 27.5 percent.

For the jail category, St. Clair County had the highest sentencing rate for felony assault offenders at 38.8 percent; this was 10 percent higher than those in St. Clair County who were sentenced to prison for felony assault charges. Oakland County had the second highest at 23.3 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to jail at 6 percent; the county with the second lowest sentencing rate was Monroe County at 11.7 percent.  

For a sentencing combination of jail and probation, Monroe County had the highest sentencing rate for felony assault offenders at 48.1 percent; Livingston County had the second highest rate at 44 percent. Wayne County was the only county in the region to have a jail and probation combination sentencing rate below 20 percent. According to the data, 15.1 percent of felony assault offenders in Wayne County were sentenced to a jail/probation combination.

Livingston, Monroe, Oakland and St. Clair counties all sentenced less than 5 percent of felony assault offenders to probation, with Monroe County having the lowest sentencing rate at 0.6 percent. Conversely, Wayne County had the highest probation sentencing rate at 42.3 percent, a trend we’ve seen throughout this series. Wayne County’s probation sentencing rate was nearly 20 percentage points higher than the county with the second highest rate (Washtenaw County had a rate at 24 percent).

No county in the region sentenced more than 2 percent of the felony assault offender population to community service, restitution, fines and/or costs.

Prison appears to be the most common sentencing type for felony assault offenders, except for Wayne County where nearly half the felony assault offender population was sentenced to probation.  

Jail, Probation Combination Most Common Sentence for Felony Drug Offenders

When examining only felony drug offenders as part of the 2017 Michigan Department of Corrections annual report, St. Clair County had highest percentage of individuals who were sentenced to prison at 19.5 percent. Monroe and Oakland counties were the only other two counties regionally to have more than 10 percent of felony drug offenders sentenced to prison in 2017. Monroe County had 13 percent of felony drug offenders sentenced to prison and Oakland County had 12 percent. Macomb County had the lowest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced to prison at 3.6 percent. In Wayne County 5.7 percent of felony drug offenders were sentenced to prison.

For the jail category, St. Clair County again had the highest sentencing rate for felony drug offenders at 40.1 percent, with Washtenaw County having the second highest at 31.4 percent. Macomb and Oakland counties also had more than 20 percent of felony drug offenders sentenced to jail in 2017. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of offenders sentenced to jail at 14.6 percent. For the jail/probation category Wayne County also had the lowest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced at 16 percent; Washtenaw County had the second lowest percentage of offenders sentenced at 31.4 percent. In contrast, Monroe County had the highest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced to jail/probation at 71.9 percent.

Remaining in line with trends we’ve seen from Wayne County thus far in this series, of the felony drug offenders in Wayne County in 2017, 63.5 percent were sentenced to probation. Of all the sentencing options, this was clearly the most highly utilized for felony drug offenders in 2017. Macomb and Washtenaw counties both had 31 percent of its felony drug offenders sentenced to probation in 2017, nearly half of the percentage sentenced in Wayne County. Monroe County had the lowest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced at 2 percent.

None of the counties in the region sentenced 1 percent or more of the felony drug offender population to community service, restitution, fines and costs.

As the data shows, jail/probation sentences tended to be the most common for felony drug offenders in Southeastern Michigan, with the exception of Wayne County, where just probation was the most common.

Probation Rate High for Non-assaultive Felony Offenders in Wayne County

This series presents correctional data for felony offenders in Southeastern Michigan. We will present data for the seven counties for three types of offenses–non-assaultive, assaultive and drug. This post concentrates on non-assaultive felony offenses. For non-assaultive felony offenders in Southeastern Michigan,  jail and probation paired together represented  the highest percentage of those sentenced, compared to those sentenced to prison, just jail or just probation. Of the seven counties in the region Monroe County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to jail and probation at 58.1 percent. Wayne County, conversely, had the lowest percentage of offenders sentenced at 16.1 percent. Wayne County was the only county in the region to have less than 35 percent of non-assaultive felony offenders sentenced to jail/probation.

Wayne County had nearly double the percentage of non-assaultive felony offenders sentenced to probation than any other county in the region. In 2017, 59 percent of non-assaultive felony offenders in Wayne County were sentenced to probation. The county with the second highest percentage of non-assaultive felony offenders sentenced to probation was Washtenaw County at 27.4 percent. Monroe County had the lowest percentage of offenders sentenced to probation at 1.9 percent.

Regionally, Monroe County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to prison in 2017 at 24.7 percent, and St. Clair County had the lowest percentage at 12.9. St. Clair County had the highest percentage of non-assaultive felony offenders sentenced to jail at 40 percent in 2017. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of offenders sentenced to just jail at 10.7 percent.

As with the first post, and future posts reflective of the 2017 Michigan Department of Corrections, the “other” category had the lowest percentage of non-assaultive felony offenders sentenced to this option. Macomb County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to community service, restitution fines and costs in 2017 at 1.8 percent. Monroe and St. Clair County had zero percent of offenders sentenced to community service, restitution fines and costs.

It should be noted again that Wayne County regularly has highest percentage of offenders sentenced to only probation and the lowest percentage sentenced to any length of a jail stay. As this data set on non-assaultive felony offenders shows, Wayne County had about double the amount of offenders sentenced to probation than any other county in the region.

Wayne County Has Highest Percentage of Felony Offenders Sentenced to Probation

Last month the first meeting of Michigan’s Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration was held, commencing state-wide efforts to better understand who is in the county jails, the average length of time they are there for and what better alternatives there may be. While county-wide jail data is difficult to come by, the Michigan Department of Corrections releases an annual report that details, among other information, the percentage in which felony offenders are sentenced to prison, jail, jail and probation, probation and other (community service, restitution fines and costs) for all offenses, drug offenses and assaultive offenses. This post highlights those breakdowns by county for the year 2017 in the seven county region.

When examining the overall breakdown between the five categories above, Monroe County had highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison over any other sentence type. In 2017, 23 percent of the felony offenders in Monroe County were sentenced to prison. Oakland County was the only other county in the region where more than 20 percent of felony offenders were sentenced to prison; this number was 20.3 percent. Macomb County had the lowest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison at about 13.1 percent. The largest difference between prison and jail is the length of stay for an offender; traditionally if an offender is sentenced to serve time for longer than a year they are sentenced to prison.

In the jail category for all criminal felony offenders, St. Clair County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to only jail at 39.7 percent. Oakland County had the second highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to only jail time at about 27.2 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage at 10.2 percent. Wayne County also had the lowest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to jail and probation at 15.8 percent. For the jail/probation sentencing category, Monroe County had the highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to that category at 61.6 percent. Overall, the jail/probation category had the highest percentage of sentencing for all felony criminal offenses in the region, with the exception of Wayne County.

According to the data, in Wayne County in 2017 55.1 percent of criminal felony offenders were sentenced to probation. A recent article by the Detroit News highlights how Wayne County has reduced its incarceration numbers in recent years due to a move to put more offenders on tether monitoring systems, rather than housing them in the jail which costs more per offender per day. The county with the second highest probation sentencing rate was Washtenaw County 27. 1 percent. Monroe County had the lowest probation rate at 1.7 percent.

For the “other” category, which is an individual being sentenced to community service, restitution fines and costs, Macomb County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced at 1.2 percent. Monroe County had zero percent of offenders sentenced to this option.

A key takeaway is that Wayne County regularly has the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to only probation and the lowest percentage sentenced to any length of a jail stay. As mentioned earlier, the reason for this is likely because probation is traditionally less expensive for a government entity than sentencing someone to jail. It could also be due to the fact that government entities are trying to explore other jail alternatives to reduce the number of offenders entering jails and prisons and to reduce the amount of money it costs a local government entity to house a prisoner.

Next week we will further dig into the felony offender data to see what percentages of offenders with drug, assault and non-assault charges are being sentenced to prison, jail and/or probation.

Local Road Taxes Help Support Southeastern Michigan Roads

The state of the roads in Michigan are well known to be largely in poor condition, and funding never seems to be at a point to allow for a total overhaul toward long-term improvement. Road funding in Michigan doesn’t come from one dedicated source. Rather, there is federal funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration Highway Trust Fund, state funding provided by state fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, income taxes, additional appropriations decided on by the Legislature, and local funding provided by general tax revenue and additional road millages. This post shows the communities in Southeastern Michigan that have additional road millages to further improve the roads.

According to the data provided by the Michigan Department of Treasury, there are 73 communities in Southeastern Michigan that levy an additional tax to support road funding, along with two counties. These millages are intended to improve road funding. Of all the communities that levy a road millage, the City of Melvindale has the highest road levy at 6.7 mills, followed by the City of Grosse Pointe and the City of St. Clair which both levy 2.5 mills. The City of Sterling Heights levies the fourth highest amount in the region at 2.47.

Freedom Township and St. Clair County levy the lowest amounts at 0.25 mills each. The only other county in the region to levy a road tax is Washtenaw County which has a 0.49 millage.

Another item to note is that there are more townships levy road taxes than cities and villages. This is likely due to the fact that township roads are controlled by county road departments/commissions, meaning more competition for road dollars.

A mill is a $1 tax per $1,000 of assessed taxable value. For example, a homeowner with a house assessed at $200,000 (true value at $400,000) in a city that levies a 2.5 millage would pay an additional $250 in city taxes. Of course, how much money a community receives in total from a road millage will vary depending on the number of homes in a community along with the average home value of a community.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy there is a strong correlation between improved road conditions and a road millage. According to the Center, 58 percent of roads in a city without a road millage are in poor condition. And, if a city has a road millage, each mill is correlated with a six-point reduction in the percentage of roads in poor condition. This is not necessarily true for villages, where 47 percent of roads in villages without a road millage are in poor condition. This differentiation could be due to the fact that villages typically have less taxable property value, meaning they would need a higher levy to get the dollars needed for more improvement.

Below is a map of communities in Southeastern Michigan that levy a road tax, along with lists to show what communities are making additional investments into their road infrastructure.

Crops Growth Behind Due to Weather

Knee high by the Fourth of July.

That’s how the old saying goes for farmers to measure the success of their corn crop during the summer months. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 98-100 percent of corn and soybean crops are planted by the end of June. However, this year, because of wet soil conditions, only 90 percent of corn crops had been planted by June 23, 2019 and about 71 percent of soybean crops had been planted. While nearly all of the corn is planted by now, it does not mean it will be ready for harvesting when typically expected. Right now, a lot looks about ankle3 high, instead of knee high.  As for the soybeans, planting is far below the five-year average, and conditions are declining because of the waterlogged soil.

Given that crop production may be down this year, we took a look at the number of acres planted, aggregate yields last year and bushels yielded per acre in 2018 in Southeastern Michigan. This can  provide a better perspective as to how agriculture affects the lives and economy of Michigan residents.

Regionally, Monroe County had the highest number of acres harvested for corn at 50,500 acres, with Washtenaw County coming in second at 35,000 acres. Monroe, St. Clair, Livingston and areas of Macomb and Washtenaw counties are more rural, with more space for farming. Oakland and Wayne counties tend to be more urban and have the lowest number of acres harvested, along with the fewest number of bushels yielded and produced. Following the trend in which county harvested the most amount of corn regionally, Monroe County also produced the most at 8.5 million bushels of corn and it yielded 168.3 bushels per acre. A bushel is an old measure based on a bushel basket. Wayne County produced the lowest number of bushels of corn at 70,000; it yielded 116.7 bushels per acre.  In terms of the most amount of corn yielded in 2018, St. Clair County had the highest yield at 176.5 bushels yielded per acre of corn planted.


When looking at the amount of soybeans harvested in 2018 regionally, Monroe County again had the highest number of acres harvested at 83,500, and St. Clair County had the second highest at 70,200. Wayne County had the lowest number of soybean acres harvested at 3,000 acres. In terms of production, Monroe County produced the highest amount at 3,765,000 bushels; a bushel of soybeans weighs 60 pounds.  St. Clair County produced 3,150,000 bushels of soybeans and Wayne County had the lowest production rate at 118,000 bushels. When looking at the amount of soybeans yielded per acre each county was within close range of the others. Livingston County had the highest yield rate at 47.7 bushels per acre and Washtenaw County had the lowest yield rate at 43.1 bushels per acre. 


While the majority of crops are now planted there are still many farmers worried about the yield for crops that will be harvested and produced. There are also plenty of farmers relying on crop insurance to ensure some kind of income for the year. According to recent MLive article, the extent of crop insurance claims this year is 13 times higher than last year. As we wait to see what the end result of this year’s corn and soybean crop season is, we also wait to see if the weather patterns of this summer will become a pattern in years to come.

PFAS Regulations to Tighten in Michigan

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals (including PFOA and PFOS) found in everything from packaging to cookware. These chemicals are causing environmental and potential health problems, especially here in Michigan. To better track how these chemicals are affecting the environment and public health the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team was created to research, identify, recommend and implement actions to improve the PFAS situation in the State. Part of this research includes testing the waterways and the public water supply. The first map below shows the total PFAS found in treated public water samples throughout the State in 2018. Three counties in Michigan (Washtenaw, Muskegon and Allegan counties) had between 63-78 parts per trillion for PFAS tested in the public water supply. According to the Environmental Protection Agency the lifetime recommended advisory limit is 70 parts per trillion. In Kalamazoo County the amount of PFAS is far higher than the EPA’s recommended intake and any amount found in every other Michigan county. According to the State of Michigan, 5,955 parts per trillion of PFAS was found in Kalamazoo County. It is believed much of this contamination is from old paper mills in the area, a plastics company and a landfill; at least 115 wells and other sources for drinking water were tested.

The second map below shows the total PFAS found in raw water for public water supplies. For this measurement Kalamazoo County was in with the majority of Michigan’s 83 counties where 0-28 parts per trillion of PFAS was found. Of all the counties in the state, Kent County had the highest amount of PFAS found at 140 parts per trillion.  With the exception of the amount of PFAS found in Kalamazoo County’s treated drinking supply, in general, the amount of PFAS found in raw water testing samples was higher than those found in treated public water samples.


Overall, the maps above show that several counties in Michigan have high amounts of PFAS found in public drinking supplies, and in some cases above the EPA lifetime recommendation. As more information about PFAS is discovered that state needs to take actions to prevent further contamination of our water resources by implementing stricter standards. Just recently the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team proposed the lowest parts per trillion thresholds in water supplies in the county. These numbers, which vary depending on the specific PFAS, are still in draft form though and will likely not be formally recommended until October, with enforceable numbers being set by spring of 2020. Once formalized the contaminant levels would be enforceable under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Great Lakes Continue to Rise

Water levels in the Great Lakes continue to rise as the rain continues to fall. According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, each of the Great Lakes had higher average water levels in the month of May in 2019 than the prior years. Each lake had water levels that were almost a foot higher than the previous year. Additionally, as of June 21, 2019 water levels throughout the Great Lakes continued to reach above average levels, increasing well beyond the May 2018 and May 2019 averages. Between May 2019 and June 21, 2019 water levels in Lake Superior have increased an additional 3 inches, which is the lowest increase of the five water basins the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tracks as part of the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario experienced the highest increase between the May 2019 average and the recorded water levels on June 21, 2019; the increase in that time frame was 8 inches. Lake Michigan-Huron has had the second highest increase in the last few weeks at 7 inches.

The charts below further show that as of May, Lake Ontario experienced the highest average increase between May of 2018 and 2019 at about a foot and a half. Lake St. Clair’s average increased the least, but was still up 8.4 inches from the 2018 May average.

Such water levels are a result of above average rainfalls for 2019 and below average evaporation rates. For some perspective, as of June 1, 2019 there had been 1.57 inches of rain during the month, compared to 0.57 inches by the same time in 2018. Additionally, the average temperature for the month of June this year is about 68 degrees when last year the average temperature for June was about 72 degrees.

Weather models predict that cooler temperatures and increased amounts of precipitation will become more of the norm for Michigan, as a result of climate change. Such a long-term shift in the state’s climate not only affects water levels in the Great Lakes, but also farming throughout Michigan. This is a topic we will further explore in an upcoming post.