State lawmakers look to find ways to save money spent housing prisoners
LANSING, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - State taxpayers spend way more money on housing prisoners each year than they do on educating kids.
This surprising fact is prompting Michigan republicans and democrats to find solutions.
If you look at the state budget, taxpayers spend $2 billion each year on the Department of Corrections. That's six times more than what we spend on the Department of Education.
"We are spending $2 billion a year on corrections. Why? I don't know. I think it needs to be cut. Seriously cut," said State Rep. Peter Lucido.
Cutting how much money state taxpayers spend on housing inmates is a top priority for Rep. Lucido.
"We have people sitting in prison right now that have serious medical conditions, where we are paying for dialysis, we're paying for oxygen, or their kidneys are shot, their heart is shot, and we the taxpayers are paying for this. The propensity for them to create a crime with those kind of ailments and conditions--at 60 years old--we are doing an injustice to the taxpayers."
To shrink the amount of inmates in Michigan prisons, Lucido and House republicans are urging the State Senate tonight to pass their presumptive parole bill.
The bill would allow nonviolent prisoners who serve their minimum sentences and score well on behavior criteria the ability to be approved for parole faster.
Critics say it's a risk to public safety. But supporters say that's not the case.
"As we look at presumptive parole and other things, it's going to be needed because of the amount of money that we spend housing folks," said State Rep. Brandt Iden.
House democrats, like Rep. Sam Singh, are joining republicans in getting the presumptive parole bill to the finish line.
“I agree with Pete Lucido. Criminal Justice reform is a bi-partisan issue," said Rep. Singh. "We are spending close to 20% of our general fund dollars go directly into the prison system. Right now we have too many people in our prison system who are nonviolent offenders and we have to begin to address that."
Right now the presumptive parole bill is stalled in the State Senate. Republican Senators tell us they want to study the issue further.
But Representatives Peter Lucido and Klint Kesto tell us they want to see action on the House bills that aim to reform criminal justice and save taxpayers money.
“Last term, with myself and Harvey Santana, we introduced a package of bills that gives some of our inmates… an opportunity to go out in the work force with employment certificates and training," Rep. Kesto said. "So we have to think to ourselves, even if we do have presumptive parole, what are these parolees going to do?”