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Lessenberry talks prisoner compensation, legalizing marijuana, fireworks, and the Ford Foundation


This week in Michigan Politics, political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks about wrongfully convicted prisonerspossibly getting compensation, new attempts to legalize marijuana, getting rid of powerful fireworks again, and the Ford Foundation’s renewed interest in Detroit.

Compensation for prison time

Those wrongfully convicted in Michigan may start to get compensated for their time in prison. Lessenberry says there are only maybe five cases in the last year of people who were absolutely wrongfully convicted.

Under the proposed bill, exonerated people would receive $60,000 for every year of imprisonment plus damages. While that amount seems like a lot of money, Lessenberry says it is still “probably not enough to compensate people.” He says, “Often they lose their families, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives. If you go into prison at age 22 and come out at age 45, it’s pretty hard to pick up the threads.”

A step toward legalizing marijuana?

Michigan is now taking steps to legalize recreational marijuana.

Two Michigan groups have been collecting signatures to put the question of legalizing marijuana on the 2016 ballot. The petition language have now been approved.

Lessenberry says it’s unclear if voters will approve legalizing pot. But he says both Democratic and Republican lawmakers also see this as an opportunity to raise money for the state.

“Some people have talked about using marijuana sales money to fix the roads,” Lessenberry says.

Banning the big booms
A state law that lets people buy powerful fireworks is under attack as a Democratic state lawmaker calls for its repeal.

Lessenberry says this bill is unlikely to pass, both because of its restriction on freedom and its Democratic sponsor.

The Ford Foundation returns…sort of

The board members of the Ford Foundation are meetingin Detroit this week for the first time since 1946, in spite of having roots in Detroit. Since Detroit’s bankruptcy, the foundation has re-doubled its aid efforts, and Lessenberry says the attention to Detroit, not the meeting, is significant.

“For a long time they were spending almost no money in Michigan,” says Lessenberry. “Well, now they say they’re inspired by what’s happening in Detroit, and they’re coming back and I think this is sort of a symbol of their belief in a possible Detroit resurgence.”

Although it’s a good thing, Lessenberry says the Ford Foundation is unlikely to leave its New York home for a permanent Michigan return any time soon.

Christina began her career in radio at Michigan Radio while a student at the University of Michigan. She was a producer and researcher for The Todd Mundt Show, and then hosted Weekend Edition.
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