The Rapidian

Voting for Kent County Sheriff: Scruggs focuses on reducing incarceration

This November, Kent County voters will elect a Sheriff, who oversees the security of the county courts and the jail in Grand Rapids. This article is the third in a series of six in which each candidate sat down for an in-depth interview.
Grand Rapids' skyline

Grand Rapids' skyline /Steven Depolo

Michael Scruggs receiving a service award from the NAACP in 2014.  He is running for Kent County Sheriff in the 2016 election.

Michael Scruggs receiving a service award from the NAACP in 2014. He is running for Kent County Sheriff in the 2016 election. /James Vaughn

Here are the first parts of Michael Scruggs' and Lawrence Stelma's interviews.

Bringing a new perspective to the Sheriff’s office

Given the historical context of the first part of his interview, Scruggs has some clear ideas about the Sheriff’s office. “The current Sheriff's office and many other agencies, they really do a good job keeping this community safe. But it’s time to let the current Sheriff retire, as he meant to do during the last election.” Scruggs feels it’s time to move forward from the Republican agenda.


“If I am elected, I would like to scrutinize the $100 million budget. I’d like to see which programs are successful, find the wasteful spending, and put together a blue-ribbon committee to help me analyze how to move forward with the money we have available. The committee would bring in people from law enforcement, individuals from each of the cities, county [residents], and others. We’ll put forth a law enforcement, correctional and criminal justice system, so that none go away dissatisfied.”

Citation vs. incarceration

“Our crime rate has decreased but our correctional population has increased. We can affect our bottom line by moving from incarceration to citation. We are housing people for low-level misdemeanors. Instead of locking people up we can give them a citation, and they can go to court. We don’t have to house them. If we as a county do this, we could save hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cities will save on booking fees, and we’ll save on housing fees. They can save in man-hours. The officer has to drive [a suspect] in, book them, and come back. He could be doing something else. And we need to decrease our correctional population.”

Reducing incarceration and recidivism

“This would not hurt the correctional financial infrastructure. We can still get monies for the new correctional facility we recently built. We can make a reasonable request to the State of Michigan and the Governor’s office to support their new program. Governor Snyder supports inmates being released on presumptive parole. The state can identify those prisoners who are not a threat to the community. We have inmates who are disabled, who have medical concerns, who have aged and need to come out. In cases where officials are not sure of an organized transition, they can send them to us. The state can house them in Kent County in a low-level imprisonment. We could provide them with the components they need to be acclimated back into society. We may need to set up medical treatment, or an ID. They may need to reconnect with family. They’re going to need a job, or maybe mental health treatment. Our goal here is to stop the recidivism. The Governor wants to focus on rehabilitation, and we can help provide that.”

In part three of the series, Scruggs shares how he hopes to use the position of Sheriff to influence conversations about the criminal justice system.


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