Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are Early Michigan Prison Release Programs Endangering Public Safety?

In February of 2009, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced her intentions to engage in a cost-cutting initiative that called for the release of approximately 3,000 prisoners by October 1rst of the same year. This downsizing effort will reportedly save the state some money and help it deal with its budgetary shortfalls caused by our weakened state and national economies.

Understandably, her plan was seen as controversial by those who think that this act would cause crime rates in the state to skyrocket. In response to those concerns, several Detroit-area County Prosecutors recently led an effort to have a lawsuit filed against the state to seek the right to learn of parole hearings before they occur, so that they could contest a prisoner's release if they felt the public welfare would be jeopardized.

At the time of the lawsuit's filing, County Prosecutors learn about parole proceedings after the fact and have 28 days to appeal any release decisions already rendered. A hearing has been scheduled for September 16th that could give County Prosecutors 30 days advance notice of parole hearings, which would effectively halt the lawsuit from proceeding.

In contrast, the state of Michigan has steadfastly asserted that the downsizing effort could be safely done without harming public safety if the release of the prisoners is effectively managed.

Five Reasons Why Michigan Should End Early Prison Releases

On September 10th, 2009 a five year old Oxford Township girl was shot in the head by a 30 year old man who was on parole for a previous murder conviction. The assailant allegedly intentionally attacked the child as a result of an argument he had with his girlfriend - the mother of the child. As of this writing, the girl has been placed in a medically induced coma and the shooter has been arrested and is awaiting a formal arraignment. In the aftermath, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard was quoted in the media to have said, "I'm very concerned about someone on the street, already having been convicted of murder, being in the position to shoot a 5-year-old."

On August 29th, 2009 a Hamburg Township woman called her local police department to report that a man wearing only under-pants was present in her laundry room at 6:35 a.m. The man fled the residence on foot and was subsequently captured a short time later. He was then identified as being a man with a violent past who had just been paroled from prison on June 23rd, 2009. He is currently being held on pending charges of home invasion, larceny from an auto, resisting and obstructing police, and violation of parole.

On July 28th, 2009 a Detroit man, identified through DNA evidence, was officially charged with raping three east-side Detroit women in one week. The assaults took place between the dates of July 5th, 2009 and July 12th, 2009. Additionally, he is suspected of being the prime suspect in at least a total of two other assaults involving two different women. The suspect, a man who was released on parole in September 2008 for a previous second-degree murder conviction, faces a very real prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars. He was charged with 24 separate criminal charges with the prospect of more if he is linked to the two other assualts. A short time after his capture, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy publicly stated, "The public has been led to believe that only non-assaultive, non-violent people are being released and that’s just not true.”

In July 2009, the man who will be forever known as the predator who brutally attacked civil rights icon Rosa Parks was released from prison and wasted little time getting back to the business of crime. On September 8th, 2009 he was officially charged with home invasion, breaking and entering, and being a habitual offender. He could get life in prison due to his "habitual" status. In June of 1995, he pled guilty to the Parks attack - that had her hospitalized for two days with bruises to her upper lip, cheeks, and ribs - and two other assaults and received a prison sentence of eight-to-fifteen years.

On July 27th, 2009 a Detroit man was believed to have stabbed his girlfriend to death and to have abandoned her body in a Riverview bar that had been doused in gasoline and set ablaze. He subsequently fled the state, confessed to the murder, and taunted law enforcement to try to catch him. Eventually, he was apprehended a few days later in Kentucky where he was being held on an unspecified theft charge. The alleged killer in this case, has a criminal history that includes convictions for second-degree murder (1983), drug possession (1998), drugs and felony firearms (2000), and credit card fraud (2004). He was last released from prison on Nov. 1, 2008.

Bottom Line:
It is certainly understandable that the state of Michigan is trying to reduce its costs during this current economic recession. However, public safety should not be compromised to balance the state budget. You would be hard-pressed to find any resident of Michigan who would feel comfortable releasing convicts with violent offenses in their backgrounds before their maximum prison terms have been served.

In the aforementioned five cases, five early released convicts who were released early went on to be accused and charged of serious and violent offenses: robbery, rape, home invasion, and murder. The state of Michigan's early release program should only allow non-violent offenders to be released before the end of their maximum sentences; anything less than that is a serious and credible threat to public safety.

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