What is more important to the state of Michigan: money or crime rates? This question is now less hypothetical than you may think. A new proposal from Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, aims to bring back an ideal that was banned over 30 years ago in the state. Granholm has introduced a measure that would reinstitute the time off for good behavior practice in Michigan penitentiaries. Granholm has decided to bring back the policy, which was phased out in 1978, shortening prison sentences for inmates with good prison records. So which is more important?
It is a tricky question, to be sure. Michigan has been driven almost to bankruptcy by a combination of the failing auto industry and inept governments in Detroit and Lansing. As a result, any money-saving venture should certainly be welcomed. But the cost of security is definitely something that needs to be looked at closely.
It seems to me that the concept of time off for good behavior is a fairly counter-intuitive measure. If someone murders another person but gets along great with other convicts, I don’t think that makes the murderer any better of a person. In the same vein but on the other end of the spectrum, if a man goes to prison for possession of marijuana and repeatedly acts up in prison, that doesn’t mean he’s less fit to be released.
The issue at hand here shouldn’t be time credits or good behavior, but a complete reform of the justice and corrections systems in the state. Non-violent offenders, such as possession or white-collar crimes, shouldn’t be punished in the same fashion as people convicted of rape or murder. The sentencing system — and the use of prisons — should be looked at with a more critical eye and include more creative punishments for non-violent crimes.
Granholm has allowed Michigan to turn into a national laughingstock on her watch — arguably, the state has two of the worst cities in the nation in terms of crime and economics. To allow more violent crimes to occur by repeat offenders is not a good way to combat this.
Another issue to be dealt with is the issue of Michigan’s state government and its inability to manage anything resembling a budget. Granholm and her cronies seem to believe that if you tax high, then somehow businesses will flock to your state and your best and brightest will stay in the state. In actuality, this leads to less money and less opportunity for the state to bounce back.
If Granholm wants to save money, she has a few resources at her disposal. She can trim corrections in earnest. Decriminalize drugs like they did in season three of the television series, “The Wire.” Make parts of Detroit into “Hamsterdam.” (I don’t feel bad about not explaining this. If you don’t watch “The Wire,” you don’t get the pleasure of the reference.) Or maybe don’t overspend on welfare by $6.2 million. There is also the issue of state lawmakers and their salaries but maybe we can discuss that issue another day.
For me, this comes down to a personal decision. I don’t want to walk down the street and wonder if some child rapist got out of prison early because he was buddy-buddy with a guard in prison. There are a million ways to save money in Michigan, cut parts of corrections, cut stupid unnecessary funding in other departments like agriculture. Granholm has effectively killed this state enough. Please don’t allow the actual killers back into society.
Asa Smith is an LSA sophomore.