As chair of the board of directors of Irwin Seating Company and an owner of the company, I value and honor the contributions that our employees make every day to provide quality public seating to our customers. We are a 114-year-old family-owned company that survives because of the skilled people who come to work every day. We are committed to following the Golden Rule to treat people as one wants to be treated.
It is wrong to put people in jail when it is unnecessary and to keep them there prevents them from earning a living, supporting their family and community, and takes away their freedom.
For those who drive to work, losing a driver’s license not only results in a lack of transportation to get to the workplace, but results in punitive costs and fees that those who make an hourly wage are simply unable to pay. Too often, minor nonviolent offenses — sometimes even offenses stemming from unpaid tickets — leave Michigan residents stuck in jail without a trial and without the ability to pay to get out.
A traffic ticket with a heavy fine an individual can’t pay leads to a license suspension, which if unaddressed, leads to arrest and jail. Another large sum of money they can’t afford to spend comes in the form of arbitrary bail charges. So, what happens? For too many people, they remain in jail until their trial date, not convicted of any crime. Not only does a person lose their freedom, but they also put their employment at risk.
Lawmakers in Lansing are on the right path with a solution: pretrial fairness bills. The eight-bill package modernizes Michigan’s pretrial practices in several ways. Chief among the solutions is improved due process. Everyone in Michigan, regardless of their background and net worth, has the constitutional right to due process.
Everyone accused of any crime should be seen by a judge within 48 hours of being arrested. If a judge assigns cash bail, it should be set at an amount that’s reasonably within their ability to pay.
Detaining someone accused of nonviolent and minor crimes because they can’t afford to pay a large sum for cash bail is an infringement on their constitutional rights, and it also takes them out of their community. It prevents them from going to work, taking their kids to school, attending classes, paying bills and taking care of other responsibilities.
We need to treat all people with respect and dignity.
It is especially encouraging to see both Democrats and Republicans in Lansing working to address this complicated issue.
Pretrial fairness efforts have the support of our local lawmakers Tommy Brann (R), David LaGrand (D), and Steve Johnson (R), who have each sponsored one of the bills in the package. These bills will improve the Grand Rapids region.
I am asking our leaders in Lansing to hold a hearing and take public testimony on these bills, so the benefits of modernizing our pretrial system can be heard.
Earle S. “Win” Irwin is chair of the Irwin Seating Company board of directors.