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Senate adopts criminal justice overhaul

California inmates will be housed in a Baldwin prison beginning in 2011
Flickr user Still Burning
Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
California inmates will be housed in a Baldwin prison beginning in 2011

The state Senate has adopted a criminal justice overhaul that aims to improve public safety by sending fewer people to prison. The 21 bills passed with almost unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats.

While crime and the number of prisoners is on its way down, state Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) says the state can do better. He says the key is making sure inmates succeed once they are released.

“When we see successful parolees, folks who have been under supervision either on the probation side, juvenile justice, within the walls, or outside on parole or probation, if we see success, that means we have less crime,” he said.

Proos spent months researching what’s worked in other states. He says training inside prison, intense supervision while on parole, and help with substance abuse issues and employment are all critical.

He says half the people sent to prison in Michigan every year are returning. 

“We ought to be able to change that trajectory of additional crimes,” he said.

Proos says that keeps the public safer, and saves money on corrections costs. It costs an average of $20 million to operate a prison. There are about 42,000 prison inmates in Michigan. Another 64,000 are on parole or supervised probation.

The measures would also require the state to collect data on recidivism to help come up with better policies in the future.

The bills focus particular attention on services for young offenders to try and keep them from becoming career criminals. One thing they require is separating 18-to-22-year-olds from older inmates.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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