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Report Says Parole System costs Taxpayers Millions

Feb 12, 2014

Report says parole systems costs taxpayers millions
By Rick Pluta

A new report says Michigan's parole system is too stingy when it comes to releasing prisoners with sentences of up to life in prison.

The report by the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending says there are 850 lifers in Michigan prison for second-degree murder and other violent crimes who could be paroled. In many cases, they're older and the report says very unlikely to re-offend.

In the Legislature, lawmakers like Representative Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) are looking for ways to trim corrections costs.

"Instead of being tough on crime," he said, "what we've actually been is dumb on crime, and now it is time to be smart on crime."

The report by the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, which advocates for sentencing reform. It says a needlessly strict parole system may be costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Barbara Levine of CAPP says many of the lifers could be paroled without a significant risk to the public.

"They're older. They know how much they have to lose," said Levine. "Their crimes, though obviously serious, were often situational, and many of them are first offenders. They're not people who have a history of criminal conduct."

"It should be noted the cost of incarcerating geriatric prisoners is exceptionally high, exceeding $70,000 per person at times," said Howrylak, who has sponsored parole reform legislation. "The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Is society best served by keeping these individuals in prison?"

But state Department of Corrections says life sentences are rarely handed down when judges have other options - and that's why it makes sense to be extra careful when it comes to granting parole to inmates with sentences of up to life in prison.