Lansing— The state is wasting up to $17 million a year keeping 850 aging and sick life-sentenced inmates imprisoned rather than giving them a meaningful shot at parole, according to a citizens group that studies corrections polices and issues.The Citizens Alliance for Prisons and Public Spending called Wednesday for reforms that would trim Michigan’s $2 billion Corrections Department budget by reinstating requirements that the parole board interview prisoners and assess their risk to re-offend or provide reasons before denying parole. Those dictates aren’t current policy.“The parole board’s unlimited discretion in release decisions and the judicial veto have been used to keep lifers behind bars for years or decades longer than their sentencing judges intended,” the CAPPS report claims.The report includes a statement, signed by 28 former corrections directors, prison wardens and corrections supervisors, that judges gave those prisoners life terms with the possibility of parole assuming they’d have been released long before now.Many have been behind bars at least 25 years and some of them more than 35 years, according to the report. Their average age now is 56 and their annual cost to taxpayers is $40,000 a year each, CAPPS says.

When they were sentenced in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, lifers were eligible for parole after 10 years and release after serving 12 to 18 years was the norm, according to the ex-corrections leaders.

CAPPS, whose leaders say they favor preventive measures over excessively punitive corrections policies, periodically releases studies looking at the costs of Michigan sentencing and parole policies.

PDF to download: Citizens group urges parole reforms to save Michigan $17M annually — www.detroitnews

On the web:  Citizens-group-urges-parole-reforms-save-Michigan-17M-annually