Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Appeal to Fear

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal to let an estimated 7,500 Michigan inmates out of prison early and save the cash-strapped state money is coming under fire from prosecutors worried about public safety.

Granholm wants to cut more than $130 million from state prison spending in the budget year starting Oct. 1. Most of the savings would come by allowing inmates to shave time off their sentences for good behavior and letting more offenders be released under electronic monitoring outside of prison.

"It's bad public policy," Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick said. "I think it makes the citizens of our state less safe."


As I noted in an earlier posting, push back on reforming the criminal justice system is to be expected. The above article is but one indicator of the resistance. And note the typical expected appeal to fear - releasing inmates early makes citizens less safe. Of course there is no data to back up this claim, and these inmates would have been released eventually. And what will prosecutors and others protesting the early release do when the data show no increase in crime?

"It's that lack of clarity, lack of transparency, lack of truth that is really unfortunate and would bring us back to the days when there just wasn't any level of confidence in the criminal justice system," Burdick said.

Too late - a national survey administered before the recession asked respondents how much confidence they had in the criminal justice system. The response: 28% -quite a lot; 25% - very little; 45% - some; and 2% none.  Reasons for this crisis of confidence are open to speculation, but could politics and the lack of efficacy of crime control policies play a role?

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