Concerns about prison costs this year have not deterred the Michigan legislature's appetite to tweak sentencing laws, reports Bridge Magazine. The House, following the Senate, has approved a version of a “four strikes” bill designed to put violent offenders behind bars for a minimum sentence of 25 years. The measures incorporates a “4 strikes and you're out” concept touted by Attorney General Bill Schuette that called for a mandatory 25-year sentence for a violent crime perpetrated by a criminal who has committed three previous felonies.
The state Corrections Department first estimated that the bill would cost up to $1 billion, but as the legislation has been amended, the price tag has fallen. The Senate Fiscal Agency estimated the law will require an extra 7,374 beds by 25 years post-enactment, at an annual cost of $250.7 million. A House version, which more narrowly targets offenders, is pegged at a 25-year cost of under $15 million. “We oppose mandatory minimums in general,” said Barbara Levine of the Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending. “It takes away discretion from judges to tailor sentences as appropriate to individuals, (and it) confers the sentencing power to prosecutors.” Levine said Michigan's average prison stays and corresponding spending is higher than any of the 35 states examined in a recent Pew Center on the States report on sentencing and prison spending nationwide.