Jackson Residents, Job Providers and Officials Call on the Governor to Keep Open the Jackson Prison and Not Release 5,000 Prisoners
LANSING-More than 200 Jackson area residents, job providers and local officials turned out today at a public hearing and called on the governor to keep open the Jackson prison and keep behind bars 5,000 convicted felons she plans to release.
Jackson resident Cindy Mapes testified that the governor should not allow the early release of 5,000 felons saying her father was murdered by a repeat offender in December.
"This man should have never been let out of prison," Mapes said.
Mapes' father was killed on Dec. 19 by a five-time convicted felon who was released on Nov. 14, 2006.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Prison Reform and Public Safety heard from Mapes and other testifiers as it convened its first hearing today concerning the governor's proposal to close the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson and release approximately 5,000 convicted felons.
Sen. Randy Richardville invited members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee to Jackson Community College in the 17th Senate District, including Wayne Kuipers, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee.
Local businesses, residents and officials provided testimony regarding the prison closure's impact on safety, jobs and the local economy.
"The decision to close the prison in Jackson will affect many of my constituents who work at the prison," said Richardville, R-Monroe. "I'm concerned about the people who will lose their jobs because of this, and I'm also worried about how releasing nearly 5,000 prisoners may jeopardize the public's safety."
According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, parole failures and probation violators made up 63 percent of the 2005 prison intake population. Nearly 50 percent of the prisoners paroled in Michigan in 1999 were returned to prison in 2003. Because there is an increase in repeat offenders, the release of convicted felons will exacerbate prison crowding, not reduce it.
"Public safety is put at risk when parolees and convicted felons are released into the community because most studies show that one-half of convicted felons will continue to commit crimes and offend again," said Kuipers, R-Holland.
Michigan has the 11th highest violent crime rate in the nation, higher than New York, California, Texas and all of its neighboring Midwestern states. Currently, Michigan is only at 99 percent of its prison capacity, while states such as Illinois and Ohio are at 150 percent and 121 percent, respectively, of their prison capacities.
"Employee salaries contribute to approximately 85 percent of prison costs, yet the governor has pledged to transfer 400 employees from the closed facility into other facilities," Richardville said. "The governor wants everyone to believe that closing the Jackson prison, or four other prisons as the governor has proposed, will help solve our budget problems. However, continuing to pay the salary, retirement and insurance of 400 employees will greatly offset any proposed savings of prison closures. Jackson deserves a voice in the decision-making process."
Kuipers said: "Michigan is currently facing many problems, and these difficult economic times are directly related to an increased crime rate. Senate Republicans are committed to putting safety first while developing practical and safe ways to reduce our state's budget deficit."
Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2007
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