Michigan considers sentencing guidelines changes

Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are considering changes to prison sentencing guidelines that were last updated to be more stringent about 15 years ago.
AP Wire
Jul 9, 2013


The idea is driven in part by a desire to reduce the state Department of Corrections budget, which exceeds $2 billion. A state sentencing guidelines study was launched last month by the bipartisan Michigan Law Review Commission.

"Society has changed its views on a number of criminal justice issues," said Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, who heads the House Appropriations Committee. "Being 'tough on crime' above all other concerns simply hasn't created a safer society."

Corrections Director Dan Heyns has advocated for a review of state sentencing guidelines. He endorsed the review, which likely will take about 18 months.

The Law Review Commission, headed by Lansing attorney Richard McLellan, plans to take a broad, data-driven look at what the state can do to lower prison spending and reduce recidivism rates. Appropriateness of prison sentences will be a key part of the commission's work.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is among those who will be hard to persuade that Michigan needs to let more offenders out of prison earlier.

"I'm willing to look at it," said Jones, a former sheriff who is head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But in my experience, most of the inmates at Michigan prisons are pretty dangerous."

The Corrections Department already has made cost-cutting moves, but spokesman Russ Marlan said that's offset by rising wage-and-benefit expenses, driven especially by a corrections workers reaching retirement under old health coverage and defined-benefit pension plans.

"We've said the budget could have been $2.9 billion without (cost cutting), but that doesn't seem to impress the Legislature," he said.

A 2012 national Pew Charitable Trusts study found that Michigan's sentences or time served were 79 percent longer than in 1990. Changes were approved by state lawmakers in 1998, and the study says that added about $472 million to Michigan's annual prison costs.

Michigan's current guidelines, which were drawn up by a sentencing commission after an inquiry spanning several years, were approved by a Legislature reacting to violence associated with crack cocaine, high-profile serial killings and serious crimes by parolees.



Just let anyone with a pot conviction out. Legalize it. Tax it like tobacco. There budget problem fixed. Not a pot smoker myself but I am sick to death of paying for those who are. People have been clear they want it. So just give it to them and fix a major portion of the deficit right along with it. (Oh I bet people are going to slam me for this) but its a simple fix and this is a democracy. People should get what they ask for if they are the majority. Put it to a vote, and watch it pass.


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