By QUINCY HODGES
Capital News Service
LANSING — In terms of cost and benefits, imprisonment isn’t the best way to reduce crime, according to a report by the Department of Corrections.
With the average prisoner costing taxpayers around $45,000 per year, cutting prison terms could save money to invest in programs to better the public, said President James Hallan of the Michigan Retailers Association.
The freeing of non-violent offenders could benefit the local and the Michigan economy as they work and pay taxes, Hallan said.
Currently, there are 46,600 prisoners in Michigan, according to the department, which is working on an Oct. 1 deadline for $28 million in budget cuts according to public information officer Russ Marlan.
Another $50 million may be cut from corrections spending, but that is in the hands of the Legislature, including prison reform and policy changes, Marlan said.
Between 2003 and 2009, the department cut $500 million by closing prisons and reducing staff.
It’s a slow process when it comes to corrections reform, said Marlan.
With prisoners being released back to society, Marlan said the savings need to be reinvested in hiring parole officers and implementing new programs for ex-prisoners.
“We have one of the highest spending on corrections in the country,”
said Craig Thiel, director of state affairs of the Citizens Research Council.
He said talking about prison reform, means talking reducing the prison population.
That will reduce costs for health care, electricity, food and personnel, he said.
Thiel said studies have shown that lower prison rates doesn’t necessarily mean higher crime rates, nor do higher incarceration rates always lower crime rates.