The first day of fall marked an important step forward for Michigan’s justice system. Fifteen hand-picked commissioners from the fields of law, politics and criminal justice, including CBI president Dr. David Schuringa, headed to Lansing on Tuesday for the inaugural meeting of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC).
The MIDC, created by House Bill 4529, will work to improve the quality of free public defense for Michigan residents who cannot afford private counsel. While Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has called America’s overall state of indigent defense “unconscionable,” Michigan’s public defense system currently ranks as the seventh worst in the nation.
Governor Snyder’s concern for this issue can be traced all the way back to his campaign for governor four years ago. In a 2010 interview on Crossroad Connection, CBI’s former radio broadcast ministry, Dr. Schuringa questioned Governor Snyder specifically about the public defense situation in Michigan.
“It deeply concerns us as a faith-based organization because we believe the prophets of the Bible are not happy when the poor don’t have access to the courts,” Dr. Schuringa noted in the interview before asking the then-gubernatorial candidate, “Do you agree that it’s broken, and how do we fix it?”
“I think there are challenges there,” Governor Snyder replied. “From a moral point of view and also a constitutional point of view, people are entitled to a defense. . . . That’s the simplest way to look at it. We’ve failed as a society if we incarcerate someone that’s not guilty.”
Four years and a governorship later, it appears that Governor Snyder’s plans to confront the challenges of public defense have come to fruition.
“Things have really gone full circle,” Dr. Schuringa said, reflecting on the 2010 interview. “I feel very humbled and excited to serve as one of Governor Snyder’s MIDC commissioners as we work toward possible solutions. I truly covet everyone’s prayers at the onset of what we hope will be a fruitful process.”
Want to learn more about the public defense situation in America? Check out this New York Times article to read about a recent study and view a compelling photo series.