An important article on the national trend of reducing prison populations by reducing average prison length of stay via sentencing and parole reforms. Barbara Levine, CAPPS associate director for research and policy, provided information and is quoted in this excellent piece:
By Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press Columnist, published Sunday, February 9, 2014
Americans are weary of paying for prisons.
After stuffing more and more people behind bars for more than two decades, the vast majority of states, including Michigan, have taken steps in recent years to reduce both the number of people they imprison and the length of time offenders remain incarcerated.
As prison populations fall, moreover, crime rates are following suit. Nobody has proved a causal relationship between the two trends, but the fact that some of the biggest reductions in crime have occurred in states that slashed their inmate populations most dramatically has debunked the presumption that public safety depends on lengthy sentences and stingy parole policies.
States that spent the 1980s and ’90s building more and bigger penitentiaries have found a better return in programs designed to divert offenders from prison, and smooth re-entry for those who’ve served their time.
Politicians on the front lines say the accompanying shift in voter attitudes has been nearly as startling as the thaw in public sentiment toward same-sex marriage.
State Rep. Joe Haveman, a Holland Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and has made sentencing reform a quietly messianic crusade, tells fellow lawmakers worried about looking soft on crime that voters understand that locking up more offenders is a dead end.
Download>> Fewer prisons and yet less crime
Excerpt from the article:
The Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS), a Michigan advocacy group that says the state could safely reduce its prison population by another 10,000 inmates, notes that state spending on corrections has continued to rise over the last decade (Gov. Rick Snyder’s most recent budget proposal suggests another 1.6% hike, bringing total corrections spending to slightly more than $2 billion). CAPPS says Michigan taxpayers could have saved more than $530 million if the 15,009 prisoners released by the state in 2009 had served the national average.
“Michigan is actually ahead of a lot of other states in many aspects” of corrections reform, says Barbara Levine, who founded CAPPS in 2000 and served as its executive director until last year. “We just keep people locked up for too damn long, and there’s simply no evidence it makes us any safer.”