opinion: Michigan needs to re-evaluate prison system to cut costs
Through our educational experiences as Inside-Out Prison Exchange class students, we are convinced that Michigan taxpayers could be making $100 million in savings.
In 1998 two programs were eliminated in Michigan: Credit for Good Behavior and Disciplinary Credits. Truth in Sentencing replaced both. Good-Time/Disciplinary credits were used as an effective management tool providing incentives for offenders to maintain positive behavior, rehabilitate themselves through available programs, and prepare for successful re-entry into society.
Where’s your money going? Each year Michigan spends $8,000 per student but spends $36,000.00 per prisoner. Jeff Gerritt, with Freep.com asked Daniel Heyns, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, about Good-Time credits; while he didn’t endorse it, he agreed it “provided a tool for controlling jail conduct."
The Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending currently estimates that if the 3,000 prisoners qualified to earn disciplinary credits were paroled when they first became eligible, the savings would be $100 million.
How do we fix the system? Reinstate good-time/disciplinary credits to reduce the amount spent annually without increasing the crime rate or risk to society. Establish an evidence-based probation system that provides a customized probation plan for each offender. This process would restore the offender to the community gradually, allowing them to contribute financially as well as pay for their monitoring cost.
Instead of spending $2 billion a year on Michigan’s Prison System we could invest $100 million of that in schools, roads and enhancing social programs that benefit all and have been proven to lower crime rates. Instead of “Tough on Crime, let’s be “Smart on Crime”. For more information please visit The Inside-Out Center or the university page for the program, or contact Dr. Lora Lempert by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn, D.J., Kristin, Mick and Samantha
We’re a group of 15 University of Michigan-Dearborn students and 15 incarcerated persons participating in The Inside Out Prison Exchange Program at Macomb Correctional. This nationally recognized educational exchange brings university students together with incarcerated persons. Inside Out is semi-anonymous and only first names are used by inside and outside students.