Michigan’s prison crunch will continue until at least 2010, because policymakers have abandoned plans to revise sentencing policies and free old, sick and nonviolent convicts, reports the Detroit News. It costs $5 million a day, almost $2 billion a year, to run the state prison system whose population stands at 50,200 and is projected to top 56,000 within five years. The state will work with the nonpartisan Council of State Governments, which will spend two or three years helping devise ways of controlling costs and inmate populations.
There may be interim measures — such as doubling the size of a 440-bed boot camp — to avoid the cost of additional prison beds. Last year, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposal to release more than 5,000 nonviolent inmates was quickly shot down by lawmakers. Sen. Alan Cropsey, the most influential Republican voice on prison policies, defends tough rules that have prevailed since the 1990s and added 16 prisons. Unbending opposition from Cropsey, law enforcement professionals, victims’ families, and other lawmakers convinced Granholm to back off her three-year campaign to ease harsh sentencing policies and save $92 million by releasing inmates. Michael Thompson of the Council of State Government’s Justice Center said other states have determined that a massive prison buildup, like the one pursued in Michigan in the late 1980s, has done nothing to reduce recidivism rates — repeat crimes by those who’ve spent time behind bars.