Are Americans spending too much to maintain and expand a bloated corrections system that all too often has its inmates returning to prison shortly after their release? In a September 28 editorial for the Detroit News, Justice Fellowship Director of External Affairs Craig DeRoche says “yes,” using the current state of affairs in Michigan as an example.
While acknowledging, “The funds dedicated to keeping violent and dangerous criminals off our streets are well worth it and fully justified,” DeRoche claims that a majority of those behind bars pose little threat to the general public, and that shortening (or, in some cases, eliminating) prison sentences for these individuals would save taxpayers millions of dollars.
“All offenders must be held accountable,” says DeRoche, “but those who are not dangerous can often be supervised successfully in the community where they are required to hold a job, pay restitution and participate in treatment.”
DeRoche urges the Michigan legislature to take steps toward reducing the length of prison terms, which escalated an average of 23 months per sentence during the period of 1990 to 2009. Many of these sentences could be shortened, he says, without jeopardizing public safety, and with a marked reduction in cost to taxpayers. He notes that a rollback of most mandatory minimum laws in 2002 resulted in a savings of over $40 million the following year.
What impact would reducing sentences for some non-violent prisoners have in your state? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. To learn more about the subject of sentencing reform, visit Justice Fellowship’s sentencing reform key issue page.