Senate panel backs prison cuts

A month ago, CFM President John Bebow urged the Senate subcommittee overseeing prison spending to take pruning shears to the governor's proposal for 2013 to spend about $2 billion on the Michigan Department of Corrections.

"(C)ontinued re-engineering of the prison system in Michigan is another chapter in the theme of Reinventing Michigan," Bebow told the panel led by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph.

Finding significant savings in the DOC budget has long been an important goal for the Center for Michigan, Bridge's parent firm, and for the Corrections Reform Coalition, an alliance of business and other groups. Our thesis is simple: Michigan has pressing public needs that cannot be met when so much of the state's general fund is consumed by the Corrections Department.

While noting to the committee that reforms had been undertaken -- and that the size of the prison population has steadily dropped in recent years -- Bebow highlighted the fact that the MDOC budget really hasn't budged at all.

The panel looked at the figures and has proposed a step in the right direction -- a series of cuts that would reduce the governor's original spending proposal.

These reductions are not massive -- $67 million out of a general fund amount of $1.98 billion -- but they would represent progress. And they reflect the business-like approach the Legislature and administration must take to DOC operations in pursuit of savings.

The Center for Michigan will continue to speak for reform at the Capitol -- reform that reduces the prison budget while still ensuring the safety of Michigan residents.

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Tue, 03/27/2012 - 11:07am
This is rearranging the deck chairs, it's not even close to the reform that's needed to substantially reduce prison costs. Sentencing requirements are the biggest problem. We simply imprison too many criminals for way to long. Some, those we fear, need to be locked up; the rest need to be dealt with in other ways. At $35,000 a year per state prisoner, we simply can't afford to keep doing what we're doing with sentencing. We need a sentencing commission and some rationality in our sentencing guidelines. The MPRI program (parole system) is both a success and a failure. It's a success in the sense that at least some lawmakers have figured out that this is where the "correction" actually takes place. It's a failure in the sense that this program has a long way to go before it achieves it's reduced recidivism promise. Reducing funding for the program won't solve a thing and may actually increase the burden on taxpayers, because of more criminals returning to prison. Improving the management and practices of the program would make a huge difference in both the success of the program and what taxpayers have to pay for our inefficient and way too costly state corrections system. There's a book that should be required reading for anyone who makes decisions on this issue: When Brute Force Fails How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment Mark A.R. Kleiman ISBN 978-0-691-14864-9 4th edition & paperback With reform we can reduce costs dramatically: the reduction goal should be $1 billion, half the current DOC budget -- we've much better ways to spend this money, e.g. on higher education. But, to do this, we need to get off the mindset that the best way to effectively punish and correct criminals (particularly the ones we're just mad at and don't particularly fear) is to lock them up for long periods of time. Other countries have figured this out: the incarceration rate in Canada, most of Europe and Australia is 1/7th our rate. 1/7th should be our goal.