Michigan locks up too many people, keeps them in prison too long, and pays too much to guard them, says the Detroit News in an editorial. It advises Gov.-elect Rick Snyder to look at the corrections department as he seeks cuts in the cost of state government. The Corrections Reform Coalition, supported by The Center For Michigan, handed the incoming governor a report offering a menu of savings he can choose from to reduce the $1.9 billion corrections budget.
Michigan spends 23 percent of its budget on prisons. Despite the early release of more than 5,000 prisoners this year, overall spending increased. The News says Michigan must address its sentencing guidelines. It locks up more of its residents per-capita than its neighboring states and at a higher cost – more than $30,000 per year per inmate. The report urges letting most prisoners go free on their earliest release date, for a savings of $120 million annually. Council of State Governments sentencing guidelines recommend inmates serve at least 100 percent of their minimum sentences, but no more than 120 percent. The coalition’s report also calls for a sentencing commission to review incarceration policies, and expediting the release of medically fragile prisoners. The News says Michigan must seriously consider whether prison is the right punishment for everyone who commits a crime. Alternative punishments, including fines, community service, and victim compensation may work better for convicts who are not likely to repeat their offenses and present no danger.