Denying parole at first eligibility: How much public safety does it actually buy?
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  • on April 25, 2013 -

Denying parole at first eligibility: How much public safety does it actually buy?

cover 2.inddThe conclusions reached in this ground-breaking 2009 research was confirmed by several later research reports. The report’s findings are especially important for today’s debate on presumptive parole.

From the report:

“. . . The present research was designed to clarify the actual risk of paroling people who have served their minimum sentences.

In the 14 years from 1986-1999, nearly 77,000 people were released from Michigan prisons.

Roughly 61% were paroled when they first became eligible. The rest were required to serve one, two or in some cases many years beyond their earliest release date.

If those held for one or two additional years had been released when first eligible, roughly 2,300 fewer beds would have been needed per year at a savings, in today’s dollars, of more than $1 billion for the entire period.

MDOC data was analyzed to determine who was denied parole, for how long, and what impact these decisions had on public safety.

Length of stay drives Michigan’s prison growth

Michigan’s prison growth is part of the national “tough on crime” trend that led to 1.6 million people being in state or federal prisons in 2008.2 Faced with violent crime rates that grew steadily from 1961 until they peaked in 1991, Americans rejected concepts of rehabilitation in favor of more and longer prison terms.

Criminal justice policies were adopted that resulted in more and longer prison terms. Ironically, prison growth was also fueled by a policy meant to be rehabilitative, or at least, benign — the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.

Lacking adequate community-based treatment, a great many people with mental health needs end up in the criminal justice system. A recent analysis concludes that 80-85% of prison expansion over the last 25 years is not the result of more crime but of public policy choices about who goes to prison and how long they stay.

Michigan’s choices have been particularly punitive, especially compared to similar states. At 505 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, in mid-2008 Michigan was tied with Virginia for the twelfth highest incarceration rate in the country. The average of the nine states in the Northeast was 305. The 12 states in the Midwest averaged 395. Most states with higher rates were in the South. . . “ Click here to read the full report.


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