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MI Lawmakers Look to Save Taxpayers $$$ by Adding Prisoner Programs

February 24, 2009

Ann Arbor, MI - Michigan legislators begin talking today about cutting millions of dollars from the Corrections Department budget to help balance the state budget. The proposed cuts could result in 1,000 fewer corrections officers and nearly 4,000 prisoners paroled.

Natalie Holbrook, co-director of the American Friends Service Committee, suggests savings would be possible by not only cutting funds, but by adding programs at high-security prisons.

Holbrook's idea pertains to high-risk, high-security prisoners who have behavioral problems. Those inmates cost $36,000 a year each to house, she says, compared to $25,000 a year for lower-security, general-population prisoners.

"If these programs are successful, high-security inmates could learn to adapt within a prison environment and eventually get down in security level, so they'd be housed at lower-cost prisons and we wouldn't have to have five maximum-security prisons."

The Granholm administration proposes closing several adult prisons and some of the facilities for youth offenders. It would spend $60 million to hire more parole officers and put technology in place to monitor those released from prison. Opponents cite concerns over public safety, but Holbrook says Michigan residents shouldn't be overly concerned about the thousands of prisoners expected to be set free.

"Hundreds of people already are past their earliest release dates and could be released to the streets safely, and there are also parolable lifers who could safely be released."

Tony Bruscato, Public News Service - MI