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Politics & Government

State lawmakers to debate proposals to reduce prison population

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Derek Key
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flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.

A state House panel on Tuesday will consider making it easier for some low-level inmates to get out on parole.

“The idea is that we’re trying to reduce our prison population in a way that is fair to everybody concerned, that saves taxpayer dollars, and that helps these individuals reintegrate back into society,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, who also chairs the House Criminal Justice Committee.

“We would have approximately $82 million in savings in corrections and the closing of three prisons. So this is a significant attempt to reduce our prison population.”

The hearing comes two weeks after Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed similar parole changes. It is part of his sweeping plan to cut corrections spending and make Michigan’s criminal justice system more effective.

  

Heise says the timing is a happy coincidence.

“It shows that the executive branch, the legislative, and – really, to some extent - the judicial branch is working hand-in-hand to provide what the governor calls ‘smart justice,’” he said.

Similar legislation died in the Legislature at the end of last year. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette opposed those bills because he worried they could have compromised public safety.

Heise admits some prison reform advocates will not be happy because House Bill 4138 does not go further. For example, he says the legislation will not apply retroactively to inmates who have already been denied or missed a chance to get out on parole. Heise says there is not enough money and local officials aren’t equipped to handle the amount of people that would be let out on parole under such a measure.

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