Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s plan to cut the prison population through awarding “good time” credits, opening halfway houses, and hiring parole officers is raising concerns among law-and-order activists of a possible crime wave, reports the Detroit News. Experts say her plan to release 7,500 prisoners and close five facilities follows a national trend that supporters say shows community support services do more to reduce crime than long jail sentences.
Fears over prisoner releases prompted Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey to offer an alternative that would result in fewer released convicts and smaller savings. Granholm is trying to wipe out a $1.7 billion budget deficit. The debate comes as the first of 1,300 Pennsylvania criminals arrived at a shuttered Michigan prison. Pennsylvania is 7,000 prisoners over capacity. Michigan has about 40 correctional facilities and has been looking for alternative uses for its closed or soon-to-close sites. Under Granholm’s plan to shave $139 million from the corrections budget, “good time” credits for prisoners would be restored. They were eliminated for some violent crimes by a 1978 ballot measure, a ban later expanded to all felonies. Granholm also would undo the 1998 Truth in Sentencing law that requires felons to serve at least their minimum sentences. She would resurrect community residential programs, also known as halfway houses, which were banned under the Truth in Sentencing law, which requires all sentences to be served behind bars. Some of the estimated savings of $139 million would be reinvested in more parole officers and increased support for parolees, such as substance abuse programs, job training, and housing assistance.