Michigan’s prisons are overcrowded, sucking up precious state dollars at an alarming rate and could close to new inmates by fall, reports the Detroit News. “Unless we immediately take action, we’re likely to run out of beds by September. We are just out of beds,” said Dennis Schrantz, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. With an inmate population at an all-time high of just more than 51,500–an increase of 173 percent from 20 years ago– Michigan operates the nation’s fifth-largest prison system. It costs $5 million a day to run the state’s 42 prisons and eight minimum security camps. The state is spends more on corrections ($1.94 billion) than it does for its 15 public universities ($1.78 billion).
Michigan’s incarceration rate of 489 inmates for each 100,000 people is 28 percent higher than the rates in the neighboring Great Lakes states. Michigan’s crime rate is comparable to that in those states. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is proposing significant changes, hoping to release 5,500 nonviolent, low-risk inmates beginning Oct. 1. The moves would save $92 million. Prison reform advocates and tough-on-crime legislators and lawmen agree that the system needs fixing but are mixed on the governor’s proposal. Barbara Levine of the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS), calls the governor’s proposal welcome news. Alan Cropsey, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, doesn’t embrace the idea, saying public safety, especially in Detroit, has benefited from keeping prisoners locked up. Matt Allen, spokesman for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, asked, “Is the state going to actively monitor these returnees? The state, not the police chief, has the responsibility to closely supervise these people, and if they commit new crimes will they be charged with the new crimes and sent back to prison?”