Some states that have trimmed prison populations by expanding parole and early releases are scaling back under criticism, says the New York Times, citing Oregon, Illinois, and Colorado. A California victims’ rights group has sued to block a law that expands the credits prisoners can receive to shorten their sentences, and Michigan prosecutors are challenging release decisions.
Some officials say changes are driven less by money than by the need to fix systems that are not working. “We can live in fear and make bad policy based on fear,” said Patricia Caruso, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, “or we can have some backbone and make policy based on what really helps our communities.” Mike Cox, the Michigan attorney general and a Republican candidate for governor, whose job includes defending the state corrections department and its parole board, has filed amicus briefs in eight cases opposing parole. Appointees of Gov. Jennifer Granholm defend the choices not just as sensible budget decisions, but also as intelligent policy for a state that found itself, in 2007, in the unwanted position of having the fifth-largest prison system in the country.