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Bezotte: Letting prisoners out early is a bad idea
RELEASE|April 28, 2024
Contact: Bob Bezotte

Last month I wrote about the Democrats’ “Second Look” legislation, which would automatically give prisoners who’ve served at least 10 years in prison an opportunity to have their sentence reviewed and possibly reduced so they can get out early. That includes child rapists and murderers.

Now there’s a plan floating around the Legislature that would bring back a “good time” system of giving credit toward early release to prisoners in exchange for good behavior. Under this plan, prisoners could reduce their sentence by 30 days for every 30 days they don’t cause a serious problem such as fighting. That means they could potentially cut their sentence in half.

I oppose both.

There are two arguments in favor of using a “good time” system. Advocates say it’s an incentive for prisoners to change their lives, and an important part of “restorative justice.” They also argue it would save the state money by reducing the prisoner population. But there are several problems with these arguments.

First, it’s predicated on the myth that there are lots of nonviolent people serving time in prison. That’s not the case. Just about the only people who spend time in prison in Michigan are people who are convicted of violent crimes. Releasing them early is not in the best interest of our communities.

Second, we already do a lot to reduce the prison population, which has dropped from about 52,000 to roughly 32,000 over the past few decades.

Michigan used to have a “good time” credit system, but the problem was it wasn’t a true incentive a prisoner had to earn; rather, it was given by default as long as the prisoner didn’t do anything to lose it. That’s similar to the current proposal.

The old “good time” system also resulted in a lot of prisoners getting out early who then went on to commit other violent crimes, which is why voters chose to get rid of it in a 1978 ballot initiative.

Truth-in-sentencing laws were implemented in the 90s for the same reason, so that prisoners have to at least serve their minimum sentence.

Another serious problem with these proposals is there’s no consideration for the victims. Even when victims are taken into account, such as at parole hearings, they aren’t a priority, and they are forced to endure the stress and trauma of going through the experience all over again.

Activists who want to bring back the “good time” credit system are trying to collect petition signatures to put it on the ballot but they are falling way short of the number needed, so they are now trying to go the legislative route instead.

My vote is no.

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