Report: Pandemic results in fewer prison sentences in Ingham County

Judicial delays contribute to 61% decline in prison commitments in 2020


THURSDAY, March 4 — An Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office report shows that the number of defendants headed to prison in Greater Lansing decreased by more than 60% last year, in part due to the inability of courtrooms to operate at full-speed during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Here are some quick takeaways from the report:

  • Only 73 criminal cases charged by Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon’s office ended in a prison sentence in 2020 — down 61% from 189 tracked in 2019.
  • County officials blamed limited capacity for “healthy and safe” jury trials for the steep decline, but also pointed toward ongoing prosecutorial reforms in plea deal policies for the longer term 37% decline in prison commitments tracked from 2017 to 2020. 
  • Without COVID-19, officials estimate prison commitments would’ve dropped by 30%.

Here are some quick statistics from the report:

Ingham County Prison Commitments

2013 — 266

2014 — 268

2015 — 341

2016 — 311

2017 — 237

2018 — 248

2019 — 189

2020 — 73

The Pew Research Center reports that the federal prison population also declined by about 5% — or about 7,607 inmates — between 2017 and 2019, President Donald Trump’s first year in office. Preliminary figures also show that decline continued (and even accelerated) into 2020. Again, part of that decrease was also attributed to policy changes in response to COVID-19.


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