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January 13, 2010

Pushing back against proposed sentencing reforms in Michigan

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Early prison releases in Michigan assailed: Prosecutors, victims say at least minimum sentences should be served," a campaign against proposed states sentencing reforms is mounting in Michigan. Here are some details:

[Rose] King was one of two crime victims to speak at a news conference in which area law enforcement officials warned of the danger of releasing prisoners early. Also, they lashed out against a pending bill in Lansing that would do away with 1998's truth-in-sentencing guidelines which, among other things, guarantee felons will serve at least minimum sentences.

Similar news conferences were staged across the state, as prosecutors banded together in hopes of avoiding a return to the pre-1998 period when felons convicted of like crimes often received a wide range of sentences. "We want truth in sentencing rather than deceptive sentencing," Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Fink said.

Fink, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, King and others on Tuesday were critical of the state's efforts to reduce costs by the early release of prisoners such as Sherwood, who was sentenced before Michigan's truth-in-sentencing law took effect. Fink pointed out that two of the last three homicides in Kalamazoo County were allegedly committed by parolees released within the last two years. "There appears to be a fire sale at the Department of Corrections," said Fitz, alluding to an 11.8 percent reduction in the state's prison population over the last 11 months.

What people probably don't know, Fitz said, is Michigan has the highest violent crime rate, the fewest number of police officers by population and sends the fewest number of felony offenders to prison of any state in the Great Lakes region. "The national average is 40 percent of felons sent to prison. Michigan sends 20 to 21 percent," he said.

Arguing that the Legislature needs to find ways to reduce costs that don't jeopardize public safety, Fitz said the Department of Corrections has been "bleeding green for some time." It costs Michigan $32,817 a year to house an inmate, he said, compared to $19,812 in Indiana, $22,396 in Illinois and $25,269 in Ohio. St. Joseph County (Mich.) Prosecutor John McDonough was unable to say why the cost is so much higher in Michigan, guessing the reason could range from construction costs to the price of food and clothing. Neither did King venture a reason for the disparity.

January 13, 2010 at 10:20 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Jan 13, 2010 6:08:35 PM


Least number of police, fewest prisoners, highest violent crime rate. These go together like a horse and carriage. You can't have one without the other. This is the experiment the other states want to conduct. The results are in, and the experiment is unnecessary.

The movie Eight Mile depicted the life of Detroit youth, including white ones, in a Fallujah style environment. It was the loose biography of Eminem. The crime meter was whirring the entire movie, and not a hint of the police anywhere. And these were the good, intelligent, ambitious kids. One was going to a good private school.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 13, 2010 2:20:47 PM

Clod: Along with "Eight Mile" I suggest a viewing of "Resevoir Dogs" to get a sense of what living life as a (white) Los Angeles jewel heister is like and "Lord of The Rings" to truly understand what it is to walk in the shoes... er... feet of a hobbit who is trying to save the world from rent-seeking ring wraiths and their cult-criminal overlord.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Jan 13, 2010 4:48:07 PM

each case should be looked at for it's merit..early release can really make sense if common sense is applied..don't release violent offenders .not rocket science

Posted by: common sense | Jan 14, 2010 8:58:18 PM

utilize common sense for early release..mandatory laws are are stone age...don't release violent offenders..not rocket science

Posted by: common sense | Jan 14, 2010 9:01:51 PM

of course if the govt was using "common sense" in the first place...non-violent offenders wouldn't be THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jan 18, 2010 12:07:08 AM

For truth in sentencing in Michigan. I believe we have WAY TOO MANY locked up for non-violent crimes.. lets not waste another dime on THEM. Bring back the good time... we have WAY TOO MANY other things we could use that money for... SERIOUSLY..LETS GET SERIOUS ABOUT THIS!!

Posted by: Mary Belden | Jun 12, 2010 5:47:12 PM

I'm a little late to the table, but perhaps not too late. I've been there. I think it is time for a voice from the other side of the wire.

People cling to their mythological perceptions of what life inside is like. I'm also a veteran. The only difference between life behind the wire, and life in a foxhole is the lack of beer and women, and there are no guns pointing outward.

It can be brutal but is more often than not one escape from boredom to the next. Michigan prisons are woefully inept at housing prisoners, providing services for inmates, or managing the existing system for parole. The DOC is corrupt and negligent at best. I won't begin to list all of the evidence for either accusation, space does not permit it. What I will do is offer to respond to anyone who contacts me with specific questions. Happy to do so.

The fact is that inmates often give up long before the possibility of parole becomes real. Once they reach this point, there are few options left to them, and most of these are of an illicit nature (either violations of DOC protocol or state law). Those who can still earn good time, those with convictions that where earned before the advent of Truth in Sentencing, rarely receive or keep good time credits earned. The discretion for such is solely at the whim of the individual wardens. These wardens are reticent to part with the funding they receive for high prisoner censuses. Little to no explanation is given when credits are taken.

So, what incentive do inmates have for improving themselves? None. In fact they are encouraged by the state's actions to exit far worse than when they entered. Considering that 98% of those locked up today will eventually be released and the numbers of incarcerated are rising fast, what does that say for the future of you fine, law abiding folks?

Good luck, and remember, what you sew, you reap.

Posted by: c.hainsaw | Jul 25, 2010 11:17:22 AM

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