Officials say let truth prevail
Area prosecutors rally to oppose repeal of 'Truth in Sentencing' law
January 20, 2010
LAPEER COUNTY — 'Truth in Sentencing' is about keeping promises—promises to victims and victims' families that the 'bad guy' will be locked up for a set number of years, Prosecutor Byron Konschuh said.
Repealing the law that ensures violent offenders spend at least the minimum sentence a judge hands down isn't worth the savings some state officials promise, prosecutors from around the state have said.
Konschuh, St. Clair County Prosecutor Mike Wendling and others from neighboring counties took part in a press conference last week, voicing their opposition to the proposal.
"It's so frustrating," Konschuh said.
"Theoretically, this is supposed to be a savings to the taxpayer but it's costing me more. I have to fight so hard to get them in prison and now I'm fighting on the back end so they won't be released."
Wendling said he understands the need to make cuts at the state level but can't believe it's being done at the expense of public safety.
"This isn't their money, it belongs to the taxpayer...and from what I hear from residents in St.Clair County one of their primary concerns is public safety," he said.
Ensuring a criminal will be in prison for a set amount of time gives "victims an opportunity for safety," Wendling added.
House Bills 4497-4499 would allow prisoners to earn 'good time' credits, eliminate truth-in-sentencing requirements and allow community placement for some.
The Department of Corrections believes the bills could reduce the prison population by 7,550—more than 5,600 based on 'good time' credits and 1,900 with community placement. They estimate a savings of $107 million per year.
The bills were referred to the House of Representative's judiciary committee in March 2009. That's the last action they've seen.
The early release of property offenders is not as objectionable, he said, adding that many were already released in 2009 for cost-cutting purposes.
It's different for violent offenders. Many in law enforcement believe pedophiles can't be rehabilitated, Konschuh said.
"This is a public safety concern for us," he added.
If the bills were to be adopted, Konschuh said his office's workload would increase with parole cases. Assistant Prosecutor Tom Sparrow is already handling four early release cases—one murder and three criminal sexual conduct files.
James Goble was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1973 after he shot and killed Ronald Davis in Metamora. Goble is apparently ill and is under consideration for commutation, Konschuh said.
Steven Olsen, a former Almont resident, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in 2001 on two counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct. Konschuh said Olsen has allegedly contacted his victim, who moved out of state with her family.
Brian Todd of Attica Twp. is also seeking to be released on parole. He has yet to serve the minimum number of years of his 14 to 30 year sentence. He pleaded no contest to one count of criminal sexual contest and was sent to prison in 1997.
Prosecutors are also opposing the parole of a Metamora man, David Groves, who has served seven and a half years of his 7-30 year sentence. He pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.