Monday, January 12, 2015

Think we could release half of them?

Bryan Stevenson makes an amazing claim!  He says that a million people in our jails and prisons are in for non-violent crimes and could be released today!  He didn’t develop the point in his lecture in the Calvin January Series, but the implications were clear:  the release would not make a negative impact on society, and it would save us a ton of money.

He said this after pointing out that the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but shamefully claims 25% of the world’s incarcerated individuals.  We have 2.2 million people behind bars!

That statement started my thought processes.  Right here in Michigan, where we have more than 40,000 people in our state prison system alone, Matt and I see numerous categories of prisoners who could and should be released. 

I’ll not go into a lot of detail, but here are some that we believe could be let out today:

PAROLABLE LIFERS NOW ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE
The Parole Board just keeps hanging onto a bunch of these people for no apparent reason.  They’re eligible for parole, they’re not causing problems, and they’re getting older.

SENIOR CITIZENS
We have a geriatric division in Coldwater not unlike your neighborhood nursing home.  Old folks in beds and wheelchairs, demanding intensive care and posing a threat to no one.  The cost to care for these inmates is exceptionally high.

ALCOHOLICS/DRUG ADDICTS
True, they need help.  Prison isn’t the right place.

MENTALLY ILL
Ditto.  25-50% of Michigan prisoners are mentally challenged.  Our prisons have taken the place of psychiatric hospitals.

THOSE CONVICTED OF DRUG OFFENSES
In our effort to be tough on crime, we have imposed exceptionally stiff sentences on persons arrested for minor drug violations.  In many cases, the kingpins never got arrested.

SERIOUSLY ILL, TERMINALLY ILL AND SERIOUSLY HANDICAPPED
Stop to think about it.  These people are not going to re-offend.  In many situations it is inhumane to deny family care.  And, in our opinion, it is NOT being insensitive to victims to show compassion here.

We don’t have accurate statistics reflecting just how many prisoners we’re talking about, and we can’t prove that it amounts to 50% of the Michigan prison population.

It doesn’t take an expert, however, to conclude that prison is not the proper environment for many people in these categories.  Our prison population would be dramatically reduced!

The challenge is to get our elected officials on the same page.

That’s up to you and me.

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