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The Michigan state senate unan­i­mously passed Bill 50 in an attempt to reduce recidivism. | Wiki­media Commons

On Feb. 2, the Michigan Senate unan­i­mously passed a 21-bill package aimed at reducing recidivism — the ten­dency of con­victed crim­inals to be rein­car­cerated — in order to cut long-term prison costs.

With an annual average cost of $34,500 per inmate, Michigan’s 42,000 pris­oners incar­cerated in state prisons, and 64,000 under pro­bation, cost the Michigan Department of Cor­rec­tions nearly $2 billion — Michigan’s single largest expen­diture.

Senate Bill 50 pro­poses a county jail bed savings program that incen­tivizes county jails to house state pris­oners who meet certain require­ments. Eli­gible pris­oners must be level one out of six level clas­si­fi­ca­tions, they cannot be sen­tenced for criminal sexual conduct, and they must be serving a fixed sen­tence.

The DOC will reim­burse par­tic­i­pating counties a nego­tiable amount — a minimum of $35 per day, per inmate. A level one prisoner costs $80 per day in a MDOC facility.

Hillsdale County Sheriff Timothy Parker said that Hillsdale County will not par­tic­ipate in the program since the jail fills most of its 67 beds a night, and because $35 per prisoner per day reim­bursement is not enough to cover prisoner healthcare.

“Public safety is a money-sucking hog. Our department does not gen­erate money — it keeps the public safe,” said Parker. “State facil­ities have deeper pockets to provide reha­bil­i­tation, prison indus­tries, and edu­cation oppor­tu­nities. We don’t even have tele­vi­sions.”

First Judicial Circuit Judge Michael Smith said Hillsdale does not have the resources or room to provide the same ser­vices state insti­tu­tions can.

“The $350 received for setting aside ten beds for one day wouldn’t even cover one prisoner’s medical ser­vices,” said Smith. “Our county struggles with our annual budget. We have no power to levy taxes — the state does.”

The state of Michigan’s criminal justice reform was untouched during the 2016 lame duck session, but will be sent to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where it will be con­sidered “a top pri­ority,” according to Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt Charter Township.

Though this plan is under a new name, it is not a new idea.

The DOC ran a similar program from Jan. 2015 to Sept. 2016. At the program’s peak, 14 county jails par­tic­i­pated. Though the program was ter­mi­nated in October, it saved the state of Michigan $3.2 million per year.

This program intends to ease prison crowding and“to create a strict, stable envi­ronment to help rein­te­grate them into society,” according to bill sponsor Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart.

Department of Cor­rec­tions Com­mu­ni­ca­tions rep­re­sen­tative Holly Kramer said the DOC is against the program because most county jails have minimal facil­ities.

“Having pris­oners poten­tially spend years where they don’t have access to pro­gramming, edu­cation, or their support network would be detri­mental to their reha­bil­i­tation and could lead to a higher like­lihood of re-offense,” Kramer said.