Debate Continues Early Transfer For Michigan Prisoners

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This past January, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm proposed that the state begin a prison release program for some unarmed offenders as a way to cut back on the state's budget & # 39; While the proposal has received support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, it has also received widespread opposition from law enforcement officials, state and public prosecutions.

Today, Michigan's prison system & # 39; there are about 47,000 inmates. These inmates cost the state & # 39; s taxpayers more than $ 2 billion annually. In fact, it is estimated that Michigan spends as much as $ 10,000 more on each prison than it does on the federal system. The fact that Michigan has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country and continues to keep prison inmates far more than other states explains some of the reasons for these high costs.

Due to the controversy over the program's initial release, the state legislature has not passed any legislation on the matter. A piece of legislation proposed in early 2009 would make a prison release program available only to inmates serving 120% of their minimum sentence. Those who qualify may also be approved by the parole board, which may preclude prior release of those deemed to pose a "high risk" of recidivism. In addition, it is the non-offending offenders who qualify. Those who serve life sentences for murder, violent sex crimes, kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes cannot seek first release.

Instead of waiting for the law to authorize early release, the Governor moved to increase the number of prisoners on parole by adding 5 more people to the parole board, bringing the total number to 15. addition helps increase state & # 39; parole numbers, but did not result in sufficient cost savings for the state.

Another way to increase the number of parolees considered is to stop more prisoners once they have reached their earliest release date (ERD). The ERD is the date when inmates complete the minimum sentence under the state sentence guidelines & # 39; An estimated 11,000 inmates have reached their ERDs and are eligible for parole.

Other measures to address the overall prison population include:

* Stop returning to prison parolees for technical parole violations, such as missing curfews
* Transfer prisoners serving the highest penalties to a community management program 9 months prior to their maximum dates.
* Offer good credit hours to prisoners for good behavior; Michigan currently has a "law enforcement fact" that eliminates good credit time and requires that all inmates serve at least a minimum sentence.

Michigan is not a state that considers adopting an early release program to cut state costs. California, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia and New York are just some of the states that have considered similar proposals or have authorized the early release of some inmates.

Opposition to Early Release

Opponents of the first release program include state prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officials as well as groups of victim advocates. They argue that the state should cut spending on each prison rather than release people convicted of crimes that are returned to the community forever. They also asserted that the state should spend more money on efforts to prevent crime, such as adding more police officers. In recent years, Michigan has reduced the number of state police officers and kept funding behind local departments & # 39; s department and local police.

Opponents are also concerned about early release programs that the state government is ready to endanger public security & # 39; for a small cost savings. They point to examples of sex offenders, murderers and other violent offenders who commit new crimes that were previously abandoned in prison. They argue that state crime rates & # 39; It can be used with the permission of the early release program.

Support for Early Release

Those who supported the program in the first release quickly pointed out that the state would not endorse the program for the most serious offenders, including those convicted of murder and violent sex crimes.

They also confirm that recidivism rates are much lower than many know and that state crime rates & # 39; s never grows up. A new study released by the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS) found that there is no connection between exchanging people with longer prison terms and reducing crime and recidivism rate.

Some who support the program believe that the best way to avoid repeating criminal behavior and rehabing inmates is not to keep them in prison for the long term, but to change them completely. community with management, counseling, vocational training and other alternative programs.

conclusion

The debate over the use of early release programs as a way to meet short-term budget constraints in the state has been long overdue. Lawmakers have considered similar proposals in the last few years, but have not been able to get the support needed to make the most of them. If you have any questions about parole, sentence or other criminal defense issues, please contact an attorney.

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