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Prison spending booms as state keeps inmates longer Kathy Barks Hoffman / Associated Press Detroit News April 3, 2011

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Presentation on theme: "Prison spending booms as state keeps inmates longer Kathy Barks Hoffman / Associated Press Detroit News April 3, 2011"— Presentation transcript:

1 Prison spending booms as state keeps inmates longer Kathy Barks Hoffman / Associated Press Detroit News April 3, 2011

2 Prison Policies Michigan often keeps inmates long after other states would have released them for similar crimes, driving up prison costs by millions of dollars a year and eating up a quarter of the state's general fund. In the two years before she left office in December, former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm encouraged the parole board to be more lenient when it came to releasing prisoners who have served their minimum sentences.

3 Long Stays Yet a bill that would require that inmates serve 100 percent of their minimum sentence but no more than 120 percent failed to make it through the Legislature during the last two-year session. And current Republican Gov. Rick Snyder says he's more focused right now on getting his budget and tax changes passed than on parole policy. That has left 8,000 inmates still behind bars who have served more than their minimum sentences, a practice that's costing Michigan taxpayers around $280 million annually. It’s likely to take years for the parole board to consider those 8,000 cases, which make up nearly a fifth of the prison population.

4 Very Long Stays A yearlong study released by the Council of State Governments in early 2009 found that Michigan's minimum sentences are similar to the time served by criminals in other states. But Michigan inmates stay in prison considerably longer than those elsewhere, serving an average of nearly 140 percent of their minimum sentence. Because of that, a Michigan prison inmate sentenced to serve at least five years is more likely to serve seven. A prisoner sentenced to serve at least 10 years is likely to serve 14 here, while in another state the inmate would serve the minimum or less. Since the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency estimates Michigan pays about $35,000 a year to house each prisoner once health costs are figured in, requiring prisoners to serve extra time makes Michigan's corrections system costlier to run.

5 To Save Money To save money, the governor has proposed closing one more prison by the end of the year to reduce annual spending by $18.9 million. He also wants to competitively bid the operation of food service and prison stores and is asking state workers, including corrections officers, for $180 million in concessions. The House Fiscal Agency finds that the aging prison population plays a role in why prison costs aren't dropping even though fewer people are locked up. Per-prisoner health care and mental health services went up more than 7% from 2005 to 2010, to nearly $7,000 per inmate. The percentage of prisoners over age 40 has increased from 22% in 1994 to 42% now, with 17% over age 50. Some of the growing medical costs are tied to overspending on prescription drugs. A recent report by the state auditor general found that Michigan could have saved millions of dollars by choosing alternatives to a mental-health drug that was widely prescribed in prisons.

6 Why do we imprison people? Safety Punishment Vengeance Rehabilitation What’s the optimal number? Why? MB MC Number of Prisoners $

7 Why do we imprison people? What happens if we release some prisoners? MB MC Number of Prisoners $ Save money; are we necessarily safer?


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