There is a perception that Michigan prisons are full of low-level criminals whose release would reduce both overcrowding and state budget constraints, but the reality is, “it takes a lot to get sent to prison,”says Jeff Fink, Kalamazoo County prosecuting attorney, reports the Kalamazoo Gazette. Nationally, 40 percent of felony convictions result in a prison term, Fink said, citing research from the Council of State Governments Justice Center. In Michigan the rate was 23 percent.
“Citizens need to know that people in Michigan get there (to prison) because of high-severity crime,” he said. “It's not low-level property crime. And it's rarely because they're not paying child support.” State Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker, said she hoped that a public forum on sentencing issues would attract people who were interested in learning more about the policies that determine who goes to prison or jail or gets probation. “Michigan, compared with other states in the Great Lakes region, sends fewer people to prison, but as I knock on doors, many people tell me they think too many people in prison are low-level criminals,” said Schuitmaker. Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings said prosecutors began holding presentations such as yesterday's to counter media reports about state prisons being full of nonviolent offenders.