First two of four Bridge Magazine articles on Michigan’s corrections spending/CAPPS quoted

By Ted Roelofs | Bridge Magazine | | April 15, 2014

Michigan gets serious about high cost of prisons

“We’ve locked up people for a long time. I don’t believe we’ve created safer communities.” – Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland

Since 1980, Michigan’s biggest growth industry has been its prison system.

It is a dubious distinction, as the state devotes a bigger share of its general fund budget to prisons than any other state. With annual spending of about $2 billion, Michigan pumps more money into corrections than higher education. And the state keeps its prisoners behind bars longer than the national average.

Conservatives and liberals alike are now saying it is a price Michigan can no longer afford. While opposition to change remains, critics are renewing a push for reforms that include reducing sentencing guidelines for many non-violent crimes, changes in parole procedures and release of some sick and elderly prisoners that cost upwards of $200,000 a year just for mental health and medical care.

“We better start looking for solutions now,” said state Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “This budget is going to grow not only at the expense of higher education but multiple other programs.”

Read>> Michigan gets serious about high cost of prisons

Judge haunted by 26-year-old conviction

She is 65 now, blind in one eye and uses a walker because of a neurological condition. Some days she uses a wheelchair.

In 1988, a jury found Karen Kantzler guilty of second-degree murder after she shot her husband, Paul, a Bloomfield Township radiologist, in a trial that included testimony she had been physically and emotionally abused by her husband for years. There was evidence Kantzler shot her husband while he lay in bed. Oakland County Circuit Judge Norman Lippitt sentenced Kantzler to life, presuming she would be paroled in 10 years.

Twenty-six years later, Kantzler is still in prison.

“I feel like I made an awful mistake, said Lippitt, who left the bench in 1988 for private practice. “It’s been haunting me all these years. Of all the cases I tried, this is the one I remember.”

Read>> Judge haunted by 26-year-old conviction