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Early Release of Prisoners Could Help Solve Michigan's Budget Problem

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January 30, 2009

Ann Arbor, MI - Early release for nonviolent offenders who are incarcerated could be part of the solution to Michigan's budget problem. The Council of State Governments says Michigan could save $262 million in prison costs over the next six years by bringing its parole policies in line with other states.

Co-director of the American Friends Service Committee of Michigan, Penny Ryder, is in favor of instituting so-called "good-time behavior" as part of an early release program. However, as state officials struggle with balancing the budget, Ryder says closing prisons and moving inmates to other facilities would make for an overpopulated and risky situation.

"That's dangerous; it gets very, very difficult for programming. Prisoners can't get jobs inside, because there's just too many prisoners. I would rather see more and more prisoners go out on supervised parole."

Ryder believes the state needs to institute good-time behavior policies, and step up its efforts to rehabilitate people in prison. Both would allow more people to be released early, she says, saving the state money.

"Hire more therapists, and pay them decent money so they'll stay with the department. You put more people through the therapy so that the Parole Board can parole them and get them out of the system, and save $36,000 a year."

It's money, Ryder adds, that the state could be spending instead on educating students and preventing crime.

Tony Bruscato, Public News Service - MI