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September 10, 2008

Smart editorial about being smart on crime

BildeThe Detroit Free Press on Tuesday ran this effective editorial, headlined "Public wants smarter, less costly criminal justice policies."  Here are a few highlights:

For decades, politicians have believed that sounding tough on crime was their ticket to getting elected. Such beliefs, along with a few high-profile crimes, have generally driven prison policies over the last three decades and fueled an enormous expansion of Michigan's prison system with little, if any, improvements in public safety.

But a new poll of Michigan voters, commissioned by Detroit Renaissance, on restructuring the state budget could help change that. It shows wide support for criminal justice reforms that would lead to fewer people in prison and less money spent on corrections....

Michigan taxpayers are finally coming to understand that they are getting too little in return for that enormous investment. The Detroit Renaissance poll found that corrections was the top choice of four areas that voters were asked to consider for major reform with cost-saving potential. The others were Medicaid, state employee health care benefits, and public school teachers' health care benefits.

Two of the top six ideas supported by voters were finding alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders and releasing some nonviolent offenders before parole. In addition, nearly half of those polled supported reducing the length of mandatory sentences....

Michigan -- for no good reason -- incarcerates at a rate 47% higher than the other seven Great Lakes states, costing taxpayers here an added $500 million a year. That's unconscionable and unrealistic in a state with pressing education, health care, job training, transportation and other needs. Politicians should now know that it's safe to be smart on crime as well as tough.

The poll being referenced in the article is discussed and can be accessed at this site.

September 10, 2008 at 02:10 AM | Permalink

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Comments

These are all tremendous ideas. Every city/state should honestly take a long look at their policies and see how many men and women are being thrown in jail because some politician (who may not be in office) wanted to look "tough on crime." Families are torn apart, lives are ruined and people who have committed minor infractions are sent to prison, costing them their livelihood and tax payer money.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 10, 2008 2:29:43 PM

Joe, I don't know about Michigan, but as a California prosecutor, I can assure you no one is going to prison for "minor infractions." This maybe a definitional problem, what do you consider a minor infraction? Keep in mind first timers who possess or use any kind of drug cannot even be sent to jail, much less prison.

Posted by: David - prosecutor | Sep 11, 2008 9:47:16 AM

Joe, I don't know about Michigan, but as a California prosecutor, I can assure you no one is going to prison for "minor infractions." This maybe a definitional problem, what do you consider a minor infraction? Keep in mind first timers who possess or use any kind of drug cannot even be sent to jail, much less prison.

Posted by: David - prosecutor | Sep 11, 2008 9:47:24 AM

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