Bill would compensate wrongfully convicted prisoners

Capital News Service
LANSING — There’s no way for a state to give back time — sometimes decades — to people who served in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Most states do offer money to compensate people who manage to prove their innocence — but Michigan isn’t one of them. Legislation recently introduced by Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, aims to change this. Thirty states across the country compensate people who are wrongly convicted. But Michigan exonerees not only go uncompensated, they also are denied access to services available to parolees who were rightfully convicted.

Mental heath courts could expand

Capital News Service
LANSING – Officials are looking to expand a pilot program that has kept hundreds of mentally ill defendants from going to prison. In his address on public safety, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed $2.1 million in new funding for mental health courts, a pilot program operating since 2008 that allows defendants to avoid jail time by completing court-monitored treatment. Snyder also proposed starting a new mental health court in Saginaw County, bringing the total number to nine. The program is currently funded by $1.6 million in federal stimulus money, which will no longer be available by the end of the year. “Mental health courts are the best resource available to provide treatment to mentally ill individuals who break the law,” Snyder said.

State’s corrections cuts focused on limiting inmates’ time in prison

Capital News Service
LANSING – Despite years of cuts and reforms, Michigan’s corrections budget is bigger than other portions of the state budget, including higher education and safety net programs.
Although the state’s prison population of about 43,000 has fallen from an all-time high of 51,554 in 2007, the Michigan Department of Corrections and a coalition of interest groups continue to push reforms, particularly in how long people stay imprisoned. The corrections department has closed 14 prisons and camps, bid out health care services, stripped away layers of administration and made other savings over the past decade, said John Cordell, a public information specialist with the Michigan Department of Corrections. It now costs just $2 a day to feed three meals to each prisoner. The corrections budget hovers around $2 billion annually (Cordell said it’s $1.93 billion this year), and the prison population is partly why, said John Bebow, the executive director for the Center for Michigan, a think tank in Ann Arbor. Although Michigan’s prison population is down 15 percent from the 2007 peak, a 2011 report from the Council of State Government showed that Michigan has the highest imprisonment rate in the Midwest.