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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Restoring the Revenue: Michigan Department of Corrections Budget Savings

Mama Cushingberry once said to me that "you should be careful for nothing". I pondered what she said to me and then I thought about it. Mom was talking about preventive maintenance and boy Mom was right again! After all Moms' are always right and have a lot of insights. And in these times of financial uncertainty ruling life's events, new and creative ways must be developed to restore the revenue to needed State Services. In the Department of Corrections, there are many opportunities to streamline and redirect revenue that is currently being spent on existing programs and policies. Specific policy changes in the Department will generate at least one billion dollars in savings over the next 5 years. One of my visions is when the revenue returns, I want to plan for how long the revenue will last and, how strong the revenue will be. And to do that I am proposing a 10 year master plan to accomplish this.

One of the effective methods that I propose is to start reducing the number of prisons. What will you do with the existing prisoners? Where will they stay? Wont your create prison overcrowding by tearing down and closing prisons? The answers to these questions are not that complex. The main customer of the Department of Corrections is the County Prosecutors who send the prisoners and, the prisoners themselves. Reducing the number of prisoners is an attainable goal. And to accomplish this, you have to look at each one of the prisoners on a case by case basis.

The main requirement is to remove the non-violent, low level, mentally ill, and the seriously ill from the Corrections process. Currently %82 costs are related to maintaining food, clothing and shelter for each of these inmates. These functions truly belong in the Department of Community Health because mental illness is a disease that needs treatment. Too often our Jails are used to house people who are mentally ill where in all reality these people need to be in supervised medical treatment facilities. The closing of Mental Hospitals was a mistake because when these facilities were open, the crime rate went down. Some of the people committing crime are true mental patients who do not need to be in the general population without medical intervention. State supplied medicine is cheaper and more cost effective than housing a prisoner in the Dept of Corrections system.

The second criterion that I would use is to remove all low level drug offenders from the system. Crimes like Marijuana possession and Possession with intent to deliver (a big charge to keep a person in jail) would be reviewed and the prisoner purged from the Correction's system. I would also push for this at the county level because most of the arrests are made by County and Local Police agencies. County Prosecutors would be given broad leeway and encouraged to plead these cases to low misdemeanors or civil infractions. Other alternative measures such as community service jobs such as cleaning bathrooms at State Parks and teaching at public schools as a sub-teacher.

A prisoner would be given a time adjustment for teaching subjects such as Math and Science count for a paid lunch at $15.00 per day. Otherwise 500 hours of community service is much cheaper than keeping these people in jail at $25,000 per year. Additionally, with the adoption of Proposal 1 allowing the sick and dying to receive Medical Marijuana under a doctor's prescription will further reduce the burden on the State of Michigan

These changes in the Department of Corrections would save the taxpayers $250 million dollars a year in prison costs to the taxpayers. We could move the cost savings to Dept of Community Health for proper treatment of mental health patients and still have a surplus.


I. M. Doobius said...

Interesting in broad-stroke, especially regarding discharge of simple cannabis use / possession / minor transfer convictions.

How many such prisoners are there in Michigan custody? And are there medical-cannabis prisoners in the Michigan system?

Do we know ? How ...

Is it appropriate for a member of the Legislature to inquire as to whether Michigan prisons contain medical marijuana prisoners ?

I'd really like to know.

Regards -

Friends of George Cushingberry said...

To answer your questions I will ask for a list of prisoners who fit this criteria. Any citizen of the State can ask for this information as it is public.

By taking a more proactive stance, I intend to help lower the expenses to the taxpayers by using sound decision making based on facts.

Thank you for writing me..

From the Friends of State Rep. George Cushingberry.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. A ten year plan is what I put in the first affirmative speech for my debate topic, Resolved: That Marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated in the State of Michigan. According to figures I have seen over 12% of the Federal and Stae Prison populatation is there on Drug Charges, The exact information on Marijuana charges is hard to determine, they say becasue there may have been more than just that one charge.
Other than Marijuana the percentage of the State's population that is addicted to the rest of the illicit drugs is so small the entire drug war industry would collapse without Marijuana. It would just have to fight the illicit use of licit prescription drugs then, maybe the would have the time to 'inspect patients house's to make sure all of those are 'locked up'.
I invite you to attend our meeting, or any of your staff that can. MMMA will be hosting a meeting to help establish the Greater Lansing Compassionate Care Club. Our first three meetings will be at 700 W. Barnes Ave. Lansing, Mi, Starting Wednesday the 21st.
E-mail me if you can have someone there, I'll get a Name tag Ready. VV - Good Stuff on the Internet