Mackinac Center Analyst: Gov. Granholm’s Prison Proposal Puts Taxpayers First

The governor and GOP Senate should “agree to agree” on cutting costs with privatization and sentencing reform

For Immediate Release
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Contact: Kenneth M. Braun
Policy Analyst
517-482-7108 or 989-631-0900

MIDLAND — A policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy today applauded Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s cost-saving “outside the box” plan to restructure Michigan’s prison sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenders. The proposal would recoup $92 million out of an estimated $500 million in annual additional costs that occur because of Michigan’s higher-than-average incarceration rate. Noting that GOP lawmakers are investigating some cost-saving prison privatization options, Kenneth M. Braun, who specializes in fiscal and budgetary issues, suggested that prison spending could be trimmed significantly without compromising public safety if Michigan’s politicians would simply agree that each side has a good idea.

“This demonstrates once again that no politician or party has a monopoly on budget-saving ideas,” said Braun, author of “Budget Hawks Should Think Outside the Bars.”

“The governor’s proposal assumes that a costly prison cell caging a nonviolent offender for an excessively long time punishes the taxpayers as well as the criminal while doing little for public safety,” Braun said. “Michigan is a national leader in locking people up — 22 percent higher than the national average.”

Elected officials who dismiss sentencing reform risk forfeiting their credentials as both crime fighters and budget hawks, said Braun. “Being costliest on crime doesn’t make you toughest on crime.”

However, Braun praised lawmakers who have embraced privatizing some services in Michigan’s prisons, which the Mackinac Center suggested more than a year ago.

“Our analysis shows that privatizing just a small portion of the prison system can save $192 million annually,” Braun said. “There’s no reason they shouldn’t combine the ideas and make significant spending cuts.”

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.