The numbers have changed, but this report’s main points and conclusions are, sadly, still applicable a decade later.
From the Executive summary:
In 1992, Michigan changed from a parole board whose members were corrections professionals to one comprised of political appointees. The current board has adopted numerous policies and practices that lengthen the time prisoners serve.
Parole grant rates dropped from 68 to 48 percent.
Far more paroles are revoked for technical violations of parole conditions and the parolees who are returned to prison are kept much longer before being released again.
Prisoners serving parolable life terms who became eligible for release after serving ten years are being denied parole on the rationale that “life means life.”
Even prisoners granted parole continue to fill scarce prison beds because the board has fixed a date for their release months into the future.
The result of these policies is that nearly 35 percent of all Michigan prisoners – 17,129 people – have served the time required by law for their offenses. Their continued incarceration is the result of discretionary parole board decisions. The annual cost to taxpayers for the entire group is approximately $497 million.
CAPPS obtained the MDOC’s prisoner database under the Freedom of Information Act. This snapshot of all the prisoners and parolees under MDOC supervision on May 6, 2003 provides substantial insight into who the parole-eligible prisoners are, how many of them might be released without significant risk to the public, and how much money could then be shifted from Corrections to other state services.