Friday, September 18, 2015

The Prison System: Taxpayers Pay the Price of Unchecked Discretion!

The taxpayer pays the cost for a Michigan prison system they do not know. Michigan's oldest inmates in 2013 included 43 inmates older than 80, 414 inmates ages 70 to 79, and more than 2,000 in their 60s, like myself. The state figures show health care costs rise sharply with age: $16,000 per year for prisoners ages 65-69 and $40,000 per year for prisoners over 80.

Michigan's non-violent, non-assaultive prison population in 2013 included:

  • 67 in prison for failure to pay child support
  • 277 for passing bad checks
  • 515 for shoplifting
  • 8 for prostitution
  • 5 for breaking and entering a coin-operated device, and
  • 5 for masking parking meters.
Drug offenders included:

  • 169 for selling marijuana
  • 319 for possession of less than 25 grams of a narcotic, and
  • 11 for pot possession.

The mentally ill: 20%, or about 8,500 inmates (at least) have symptoms of severe mental illness, according to a University of Michigan survey, but 65% of those receive no treatment at all.

Parole violators include more than 2,000 who served their minimum sentence and returned to prison in 2013 as a result of a technical violation, according to CAPP. CAPP also found that about 2,700 people on probation, some for a felony, were sentenced to prison on violations that may range from new offenses to such non-criminal conduct as changing a residence without the parole officer's permission.

The drug-addicted: Retired Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald E. Shelton researched 5,000 felony cases and found that 70% were somehow drug related. Those figures tell us that we have a disease problem.

It costs $35,000 a year to house a prisoner in Michigan out of a $2 billion budget. One reform advocate said taxpayers and politicians will have to decide if they want to continue to foot the bill for this caliber of inmate. If you choose to use prison only as a last resort for people who are dangerous to the public, then you could push Michigan's prison population way down.

There needs to be some alternative for people who may not present a threat of immediate harm. We have not been very good in this state at developing an alternative when it comes to prisoners. We the people must take a stand for the people. This is an attack on democracy to bring back slavery.

-Rev. Pinkney