Study: Late parole is no deterrent

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Karen Bouffard / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Keeping inmates in prison past their earliest parole dates does little to reduce crime, according to a study released today by a Michigan public policy group.

The findings come as Michigan plans to parole 3,000 more felons this year than in previous years to curb rising prison costs.

The study by the nonprofit Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending followed for four years 76,721 Michigan prisoners released for the first time between 1986 and 1999 to determine whether they came back to prison for a new crime or parole violation.

Researchers concluded that denying parole when prisoners first become eligible does very little to reduce crime rates.

The data showed those convicted of homicide and sex offenses rarely commit new crimes against people, and serving more time does not increase the likelihood of success upon release.

The study found:

• While 18 percent returned to prison with a new sentence within four years of their release, only 4.5 percent were returned for a new crime against a person. Returns for larceny, drugs and burglary were by far the most common.

• Re-offense rates vary widely by crime type. Criminals who commit financially motivated crimes are the most likely to return to prison; 3 percent of sex offenders returned for a new sex offense and less than 1 percent of homicide offenders returned for another homicide.

• Overall, 61 percent were released when first eligible but that also varied widely by offense. About 30 percent were kept one or two additional years, then released. Prisoners with the lowest re-offense rates were most likely to be denied parole.

Length of time served was not associated with success upon release, although older age, lack of prior prison terms and good institutional conduct were.

The Lansing-based group, which advocates policies that prevent crime and rehabilitates offenders, estimates that if everyone denied parole for up to two years had been released when first eligible, on average, it would have saved more than 2,300 beds a year.


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