Advocates for Michigan prisoners were encouraged by an AP story today showing that Gov. Rick Snyder and state lawmakers are considering changes to prison sentencing guidelines. It's about time. 15 years ago the guidelines were made tougher, and they stuck. But the times, they are a-changin' and the state now has a corrections budget that exceeds $2-billion.
Everything is Republican controlled right now in Michigan, but the Guv is a bit of a maverick, and at his side he has Representative Joe Haveman from Holland, who heads up the House Appropriations Committee. Representative Haveman is a conservative, but we happen to know that he has taken an interest in prisoners, and more than just a passing interest. Says Representative Haveman: “Being tough on crime above all other concerns simply hasn't created a safer society.”
His statement is backed up by actual statistics.
Then comes along Senator Rick Jones, from Grand Ledge, a former sheriff who heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee: “...in my experience, most of the inmates at Michigan prisons are pretty dangerous.”
Gimme a break. MOST of the inmates, Senator Jones? Just what is your experience with the Michigan prison system?
I wonder if he has checked the percentage of people in prison who are mentally ill. Who are physically ill and in hospitals and infirmaries. Who are elderly and virtually harmless. Who are battered women who fought to save their lives. Who are in on non-violent drug or alcohol charges. Most of the inmates?
We hear from inmates daily, on a regular basis, and there's a criminal element in there, all right...it's prison. That's where they belong. I was trying to explain to my grandkids the other day how nice many of the prisoners are, and how special they are in my life.
Corrections Director Dan Heyns is all for an update, hoping that the Law Review Commission can figure out what the state can do to lower prison spending and reduce recidivism rates.
It's going to be a hard sell, with numerous lawmakers and many people having the same former cop mindset as Senator Jones.
It's our job to let our state lawmakers know where we stand. The guidelines need revision.