Detroit Free Press editorial

Michigan legislators and taxpayers looking to save hundreds of millions of dollars in corrections costs should check out the Pew Center report (“Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms”) that shows Michigan prisoners released in 2009 led the nation in average time served. Policies that would shave limited time off sentences would have a huge cumulative impact on Michigan’s 44,000-inmate system.

Harsh sentencing policies are the biggest reason Michigan has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates, making it one of only four states that spend more on prisons than higher education. The Pew study, released last month, ranked Michigan first in time served, with 4.3 years. Pennsylvania and New York had the next longest average sentences, with 3.8 years and 3.6 years respectively. The national average was 2.9 years.

Moreover, on average, Michigan prisoners were incarcerated 23 months longer than their counterparts in 1990, costing the state nearly $500 million. Rising crime rates weren’t the reason, as rates two decades ago were comparable to those of today.

Read>> Harsh sentencing rules cost millions without cutting crime