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Man suspected in Zion Foster's disappearance released early following alternative program. What is it?

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-18 17:41:25-05

EASTPOINTE, Mich. (WXYZ) — The main suspect in the disappearance of 17-year-old Zion Foster is now a free man.

Police say on January 4th, 2022, Zion Foster left her home in Eastpointe and never returned. Police believed her cousin Jaylin Brazier, 24, was responsible for her death.

Police say after initially lying, Brazier later confessed that the two got high and he panicked after claiming Foster suddenly stopped breathing. He said he then threw her in a dumpster prompting a months-long search by DPD at a Macomb County dump site.

Foster's body has still not been recovered and no one has been charged with her death. Brazier was charged with lying to police in connection to the investigation and sentenced to serve 23 months, but after 10 months Brazier was released.

The State Department of Corrections confirmed the 24-year-old completed a Bootcamp at the Special Alternative Incarceration Facility in Jackson County.

"As the lawyers, what we call prison in the Michigan department of corrections is just warehousing. Those individuals, unless they seek things out or have family members to help them seek things out, oftentimes those people are the same people that went in and come out," said Attorney Todd Perkins with Perkins Law Firm in Detroit. "Whereas in this program something is actually being infused into you: discipline, additional programming, additional treatment."

Perkins, who is not involved in the case, says the SAI program is similar to a military boot camp and is reserved for specific kinds of crimes. Perkins says offenders who have committed things like capital offenses, armed robbery, or criminal sexual acts are not eligible. Offenders also cannot have previously served a prison term unless under HYTA. He says people who participate in the 90-day program typically have a 12 or 24-month parole period following completion.

"This is not to take away from the impact of what the grander landscape is, but what it is, is to say that 'you check all the boxes', this person is eligible. The judge signed the order. He had no other reason or objection from anyone else," said Perkins.

The program has marked some success in recent years. According to state data, 148 male prisoners and 24 male probationers were enrolled in the program in 2021. The same year, 82 female prisoners and 4 female probationers were enrolled in the program. The enrollees were convicted of various crimes including drug-related crimes, fraud, and assault. Data shows, 85% of the prisoners successfully completed the program and around 85% of probationers successfully completed the program. There was no data on recidivism rates.

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido says while he believes the SAI program has many benefits, it doesn't seem fitting in Brazier's case.

"I do believe in this case the system actually didn’t provide a safe harbor for the mother and the other family members of the individual that was the victim," said Lucido. "You have victim's families that hear 23 months, and rightfully so, that is the sentence of the judge. That is what the court invoked. When they’re taken then into the department of corrections that is what the benefit is of knowing what it was that the individual is going to serve. At no time was there ever an expectation that it would be less than 23 months."

Lucido says bootcamp/SAI eligibility was not discussed as a part of plea deals so the family had no prior notice that early release was an option.

"We need the legislature to fix this issue because if somebody doesn’t get the benefit of that bargain on the victim's side I think it almost shocks the victim and their family," said Lucido. "I think the closure would be the victim and or their family should be able to be heard whether or not they have a part in this and unfortunately they don’t."