My son Matt and I were chatting with a prison doctor the other day about the shameful way that the Michigan Parole Board is flopping prisoners. A “flop” means that freedom was denied and the length of imprisonment was extended. Usually the flop is for two years, but for lifers the inmate's name comes up once every five years. And the Parole Board has the authority to tell a lifer that it has no interest when his or her name comes up, which means that there will not even be an interview. Any hope for freedom is suddenly 5 years away. But the doctor made a good point that the Parole Board seems to be ignoring, and that the legislators certainly haven't seemed to grasp: The flops cost money!
One would think that Michigan legislators would get on their “high horse” about some of these Parole Board issues involving lifers---relying on just file information, rather than a personal interview before giving a five-year flop; throwing out the words “no interest” in a form letter with no explanation...and none required; the lack of a right of the prisoner to appeal parole denials; and the resulting phenomenon of a large pool of parolable lifers that just keeps getting larger. These are people who are eligible for release.
Getting back to the doctor's point.
It costs the state roughly $35,000 a year to care for a prisoner. So extending that prisoner's stay for another two years means a $70,000 decision. Multiply it out for a lifer, and suddenly that's up to $175,000! And this is one person.
Now factor in the fact that many of these inmates are older, and require medical care. The cost per inmate doubles. So it's a $70,000 a year decision.
Now figure the cost of housing our geriatric category prisoners, who require constant care and medical attention, and the cost is estimated at $100,000 per year! The Parole Board can glibly state “no interest” but that simple 5-year flop may be costing you and me a half-million dollars.
Do you get the point, budget-minded State Legislator?
Decisions or lack of decisions by this Parole Board are throwing the corrections budget out of whack, and it doesn't have to be that way. What are you going to do about it?