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Who Belongs Behind Bars? Report Looks At Safely Reducing MI Prison Population

PHOTO: Reviewing the policies surrounding who belongs in prison and for how long could help the state save hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a new report from the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending. Photo credit: larryfarr/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Reviewing the policies surrounding who belongs in prison and for how long could help the state save hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a new report from the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending. Photo credit: larryfarr/morguefile.com.
June 12, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - More people in prison doesn't mean more crime, but it does mean the state needs to rethink its policies, according to a new report which looks at ways to reduce the state's $2 billion annual prison spending.

Barbara Levine, associate director for research and policy for the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending - which put out the report - said crime rates have been falling steadily for several years, and yet the state's incarceration rate keeps rising, with 44,000 Michiganders now in state prisons.

"Decades of longer sentences, lower parole rates and the elimination of any form of sentence-reduction credits for good conduct or program participation has put Michigan out of sync with the rest of the country," Levine said.

While some critics believe adjusting sentencing guidelines would compromise public safety, Levine said research has shown that longer sentences do not have an impact on a convict's likelihood to reoffend. She said the strategies outlined in the report would save the state $250 million per year and cut the number of prisoners by 10,000 over five years.

Levine said the money saved would allow the state to address some of the issues that prevent crime and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders.

"More re-entry support for parolees," she said. "More access to treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. More access to jobs, education, transportation, and decent housing in high incarceration communities."

The full report is online at SmartJusticeforMI.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI