Prison Reform has become a popular cause on both the left and right of the political spectrum. But Bridge Magazine asks “who should be released first?”
Bridge Contributor Ted Roelofs says there has been an emerging consensus that too much money is being spent on incarceration, and more alternatives should be sought for people convicted of crimes. But he says there is still some pushback notably in Michigan from Attorney General Bill Schuette.
In 1985, Michigan’s prison population was at about 18,000. Ten years later it was 41,000. The peak was 51,000 in 2006. There were more than 43,700 inmates in Michigan prisons in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available. Roelofs says the reasons for that explosion includes more aggressive prosecution, the “war on drugs” and changes in the law such as mandatory minimum sentences. Roelofs says many of those offenders are in prison for non-violent offenses.
Prison reform comes with risk. Roelofs says many of the people calling for reform recognize that there would be strong political backlash if someone released from prison early were to commit a violent crime. But Roelofs serious reform requires change. He says there is no guarantee. But Roelofs says there’s no guarantee in anything, and if people are serious about reform they will have to move forward.