March 10, 2010 Last week State Rep. Kevin Daley made a case to uphold 'Truth in Sentencing' laws. It's become an issue because of Michigan's burgeoning Department of Corrections and the state's budget problems. Gov. Granholm is proposing the return of a parole policy that would release prisoners early for good behavior—some who may not have even served their minimum sentence. The idea is to cut costs.
Lawmakers wouldn't have to worry about early release of criminals if they'd take a cold, hard look at a campaign issue: prison reform.
The Department of Corrections is a huge business here in the state. According to the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, the DOC employs more than 17,000 people (about one in every three on the state payroll.) Michigan taxpayers fork out $34,000 per prisoner per year to house them. About 50,000 prisoners are currently being housed and more than 70,000 are on parole or probation. The burden to our state is huge and when funds are being consumed housing prisoners they're not being used to improve public services for the law abiding population.
Prison reform was a key issue during the last round of campaigns and is a key issue for the future of our state. Lawmakers need to address it immediately.