According to a recent New York Times article , states nationwide are trimming their budgets by using early releasing programs in their prison populations. As a result, more convicted felons are on the streets and not behind bars.
Take for instance in the state of Illinois. Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat, described its early release program as “a big mistake.” This program sent some convicts who had committed violent crimes home from prison in a matter of weeks. Of more than 1,700 prisoners released over three months, more than 50 were soon accused of new violations.
The state of Michigan seems to have the worse case scenario. The state has the fifth largest prison system in the country. Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan, a Democrat, has approved 133 commutations, which is more then some of her predecessors. In addition, she has expanded the state’s parole board to 15 members to allow more cases to be considered, and recently proposed a budget that presumes 7,500 fewer prisoners next year for savings of more than $130 million.
However, local prosecutors across the state of Michigan are challenging at least 20 of the parole decisions. Among the 13,541 inmates released on parole in 2009 was Scott W. Hankins, who has been convicted twice in sex cases and was given a thirty-year sentence. He has been accused of molesting other girls he had met at church, some of whom were developmentally disabled. The youngest girl was only seven years old. This man shows no remorse for his actions and should not have been allowed out on parole.
During these tough economic times, state governments still have the responsibility to keep their citizens safe. Cutting budgets in their prison populations should be carefully reviewed and be the last budget item to be cut.