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    In late 2005, the state of Michigan underwent a repeal of several mandatory minimum laws, mostly for drug offenses and the option for earlier parole. Although this represents a significant departure in the drug sentencing policy over past penalties, drug abuse and the use of incarceration as a possible solution to solve the state drug problems might be reason enough to reconsider these policies.

    . Out of the 51,000 people imprisoned in 2001, 5,713 of them were locked up specifically for drug offenses. Sadly, these figures under represent the problem of substance abuse among those already incarcerated, which leads to them later committing offenses that are drug-related. It has been estimated in Michigan that 71% of males and 74% of females have been diagnosed with substance abuse or dependency problem. This fine state spends approximately $28,000 per person, or $160 million a year, to incarcerate these drug offenders and the cost is much higher to taxpayers because this figure doesn’t take into account the cost associated with crime investigation, persecution, and defense of the individuals.

    Since the 1980’s, convictions and prison commitments for drug violators have increased a significant amount, while commitments for other offenses have either grown a small percentage, or have fallen. Most incarcerated drug offenders are there for crimes that involved small amounts of drugs, and these numbers of people help contribute to the overall high conviction rate. The majority of people that are admitted or returned to prison in Michigan, are parole and probation violators. In 2000-2001, only about a third of the state’s total prison intake were new court commitments, and individuals that were paroled for the first time have been increasingly likely to fail.

    During the past 20 years, drug use has increased significantly, despite the fact that there are more people already serving time in prison for drug related crimes. This has not been associated with declining rates of drug arrests. Treatment for opium and synthetic drugs has increased, seizures of methamphetamine labs has increased, and customs seizures of drugs has increased, yet drug associated deaths have also increased and more than two thirds of prisoners have been assessed with having a substance abuse problem. National studies have shown that it costs substantially more to incarcerate these individuals than to treat them in rehab, which could save the state of Michigan several millions of dollars.

    As we know, the use of drugs is a very serious problem and seems to only be getting worse. The idea of jail time doesn’t seem to hold enough consequence for individuals anymore, so the possibility of more treatment centers becoming available might be the best option. Not only will it save the state and taxpayers money, it will ultimately solve the problem of offenders returning to jail after they’ve been put on probation due to failed drug screenings and will hopefully slow down the rate of drug abuse.

    http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/jpi/mi_drug_pol_econ.pdf

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Meet your Policy Fellow: Johanna Jelenek

    Johanna Jelenek is Criminal Justice policy fellow. She is a first-year student in Communications at Michigan State University.