Where are the voices of budget-minded Michigan legislators when it comes to corrections?
The State of Michigan Corrections budget has been $2.2 billion annually for years, even though the state boasts that the population keeps going down.
One of the simple reasons for the high cost is that we refuse to let go of parolable lifers. More than a thousand of these men and women deserve to be released, they no longer pose a threat to society, and the cost of keeping them is astronomical!
While the prison system says the cost of housing a prisoner for a year is around $36,000, that figure isn’t very realistic because many of these people have serious health issues.
I want to give our writer/reporter from behind bars, Ricardo Ferrell, credit for his assistance with this story. It’s one thing to talk about dollars, but it’s not fair to do so without talking about people. Ricardo has provided a few names, and I’m adding one of my own. I stress that these are not the only people deserving of parole. We give their names strictly as examples.
Ricardo, himself, has served 37 years, and his medical needs are considerable. He’s 61.
Then there’s Charles Ross, age 75, who has served 44 years; Darnell Bolden, 66, who has served 44 years; Raymond Richardson, age 50, has served 35 years (he was 15 when he came to prison!); and finally, I want to mention my friend Herbert Collins, who is now 77, and has served 50 years and who struggles with serious health issues.
Ricardo and I estimate it has already cost the state well over 10-million dollars on these five guys! And there are a thousand more names!
Now here are a couple things that just annoy the dickens out of me. By the state’s own assessment mechanism, Ricardo, Charles, Darnell and Raymond are considered low risk! Then why the holdup? Why the delay?
The second issue is this: admission of guilt. I was at the side of Herb Collins when he met with a member of the Parole Board. I did so AT THE REQUEST OF THE WARDEN, WHO INSISTED THE MAN SHOULD BE RELEASED! But no soap. The problem? Herb cannot remember the details of the crime because he was in an alcoholic blackout when it was committed. He doesn’t contest the details, he even pled guilty…he just can’t remember. Because he refused to lie and say he remembered all the details of that crime, the Parole Board member wouldn’t let him continue. She was tired of it…wanted to hear no more. She sent him back where he came from.
That’s the stuff that’s gotta stop.
Holding prisoners who have been eligible for parole for decades, especially those who are elderly, makes absolutely no sense.
Michigan spends 20% of its general fund in corrections…1 in every 5 dollars. "If this sort of wasteful spending doesn't shock the conscience of ordinary people, then what will?" asks Ricardo.