Editor’s Note: Minimum sentence bill not dangerous

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

The law and order crowd is mounting an all-out effort to sink a common sense prison reform bill, fanning fears that it would release dangerous criminals on the streets.

Local sheriffs and prosecutors, with an assist from Attorney Gen. Bill Schuette, are labeling the bill that would release some model prisoners after they’ve served their minimum sentences an “automatic parole bill.”

It is hardly that. The proposal from Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, would simply make it easier for convicts who have behaved in prison to gain their freedom once they’ve served their minimum time.

That should be the point of a minimum sentence — to encourage good behavior and to reward inmates for rehabilitating their lives.

Heise’s bill would require multiple layers of review to ensure the inmates pose little risk to society. No one will be released automatically. Those convicted of sex crimes and most murders would not be eligible at all.

Keeping inmates in prison who are no longer dangerous does not serve society well. Michigan spends $2 billion a year on Corrections; it will have to cut those costs — or raise taxes — to fix its roads, improve education and meet its other needs.

Sentencing reform is a critical element of cutting the Corrections budget. This proposal should pass, and others should follow.