Individuals convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison in Michigan are spending more time in prison than anyone expected. A new study found that inmates in Michigan spend over four years in prison on average, compared to the national average of less than three years, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. When it comes to violent criminals, Michigan offenders spend over seven years in prison compared to the national average of five years.
Why are offenders in Michigan spending more time in prison? Criminal defense experts say that it has to do with sentencing requirements under state law. After the report came out, criminal justice advocates said that the state may need to revise their criminal sentencing requirements, citing that longer prison sentences do not help deter crime or reduce the rate of recidivism.
During the last two decades, Michigan saw a two-year increase in the amount of time offenders spent in prison. The extended prison stays cost the state roughly $471 million, according to the Pew study.
Many people support changing Michigan’s sentencing requirements. Some say that it needs to be revised to reduce the amount of money Michigan is spending on locking people up while others say that longer prison sentences are unnecessary and keep many people in prison who are not a threat to society.
Criminal justice advocates say that it is not beneficial to lock up non-violent offenders, especially those who have committed minor offenses. When the state locks up more non-violent offenders, costs go up and offenders have to wait longer to receive mandatory treatment before they can be released from prison.
Many say that the problem is that lawmakers don’t want to look soft on crime, so they don’t propose or support legislation that would reduce or get rid of prison sentences for certain criminal offenses. Advocates say that until lawmakers feel comfortable addressing prison overcrowding and what can be done to prevent it, offenders in Michigan will continue to receive longer prison sentences compared to the rest of the country.
Source: Grand Rapids Business Journal, “Longer sentences fuel big budget for Michigan prisons,” Kyle Campbell, April 26, 2013