- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday that he wants prison inmates to get skills assessments and job training before they are released as part of an overhaul of Michigan’s criminal justice system.

The comments were part of a speech at Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, a nonprofit career and job training organization.

“This is about smart justice,” Snyder said. “If someone has committed a crime they should be punished. Helping them be successful coming out is a win for all of us.”

Snyder called his speech “a special message” to state residents and the Legislature. It touched on a number of topics, including body cameras for law enforcement officers, better ways to notify crime victims of personal protection orders, restitution for crime, diversity in the recruitment of state troopers and the high cost of running Michigan’s corrections system.

He asked legislators to deal with penalties for probation violation, parole rules for prisoners assessed to have a high probability of success upon release, and the elimination of laws that penalize people for minor infractions.

Snyder also said he supports using probation options and diversionary court treatment programs for nonviolent offenders, such as mental health and drug courts.

Lawmakers discussed criminal justice reform last year, including the possibility of easing Michigan parole and probation policies to save money, but some of the bills went nowhere because of concerns from law enforcement.

Legislators did create a commission to analyze the effect of Michigan’s sentencing guidelines on jails, prisons and courts. The 15-member group will recommend changes in the guidelines, especially for crimes that aren’t as serious as violent ones.

Some opposition to efforts that would soften parole and probation policies have come from Attorney General Bill Schuette. His spokeswoman, Andrea Bitely, said Monday in a statement that Schuette’s office applauds Snyder’s focus on victims “because they must be at the forefront of any reforms.”

“We must protect the safety of Michigan families, delineate the difference between violent and nonviolent offenders, and continue to find efficiencies in the Department of Corrections,” Bitely continued.

The state had 43,359 prisoners at the start of 2015, down from a peak of 51,554 in 2007. The department’s $2 billion budget is about 20 percent of the state’s general budget. There are 12,700 employees.

The House Fiscal Agency said $20 million can be saved for every 1,000 prison beds that are retired.

Over-imprisonment of nonviolent offenders is costly to taxpayers, said state Rep. Kurt Heise, a Plymouth Township Republican and chair of the House Criminal Justice committee.

Bills on presumptive parole and probation are back in House committees, he told The Associated Press.

“We want to make sure if you break the law, if you commit a crime, that you’re going to get punished for it,” Heise said. “But how that punishment looks and how we pay for it and what happens after you’ve done your time is really what we want to take a fresh look at.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide