A nearly 30-year-old Michigan prison policy of “When in doubt, lock ’em up” is ending. Many of the state’s expensive prison cells are being emptied. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is downsizing the state’s prison population by about 3,000 by Oct. 1. The Detroit Free Press looked at 318 parolees released in December under similar criteria to those being released this year. Most have committed violent acts in the past — murder, armed robbery, rape, and assault, among others. Relatively few — 29 of the 318 as of late last week — had gone off the tracks again. None had committed a new, violent crime in the latest months of parole.
Granholm and top corrections officials insist downsizing can be done safely if enough care is taken to manage parolees before and after their release. State Sen. Alan Cropsey, chairman of the committee that handles the budget for prisons, says that while some useful investment has been made in parole preparation and supervision, much more needs to be done to beef up local police protection and deal with probationers so their criminal activities don’t escalate. “There just aren’t enough cops on the streets,” Cropsey said. “Look at the City of Detroit. They’re less well-equipped to deal with a 1,000 extra ex-cons than they were eight to 10 years ago. And that’s what they’re going to get.”