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Senate adopts criminal justice overhaul

John Proos photo
Scott Pohl
WKAR-MSU file photo
Sen. John Proos

The state Senate has adopted a criminal justice overhaul that aims to improve public safety by sending fewer people to prison.

The 21 bills passed with almost unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats.

While crime and the number of prisoners is on its way down, state Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph) says the state can do better. He says the key is making sure inmates succeed once they are released.

“When we see successful parolees, folks who have been under supervision either on the probation side, juvenile justice, within the walls, or outside on parole or probation, if we see success, that means we have less crime,” he says.

Proos spent months researching what’s worked in other states. He says training inside prison, intense supervision while on parole, and help with substance abuse issues and employment are all critical.

Proos adds that half the people sent to prison in Michigan every year are returning. “We ought to be able to change that trajectory of additional crimes,” he says.

Proos says that keeps the public safer, and saves money on corrections costs. It costs an average of $20-million to operate a prison. There are about 42,000 prison inmates in Michigan. Another 64,000 are on parole or supervised probation.

The measures would also require the state to collect data on recidivism to help come with better policies in the future.

The bills focus particular attention on services for young offenders to try and keep them from becoming career criminals. One thing they require is separating 18-to-22 year olds from older inmates.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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