Davis: Hello Senator Cropsey! Thank you for allowing me to conduct this interview with you today!
Cropsey: Thank you Jamia for having me! It is definitely my pleasure!
Davis: No problem! We shall get right into the interview. So, Senator Cropsey what is your educational background?
Cropsey: I received my BA in Mathematics Education from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, and my law degree from Cooley Law School here in Lansing.. Davis: How did you become involved in politics?
Cropsey: It is all in the family. My father was into law.
Davis: A family tradition, that is nice. So, what are your favorite issues to debate in public policy?
Cropsey: We don't really debate [laughter], but I like to work with religious freedom issues. We don't discuss them much, but in the coming weeks it will be talked about. The challenges on issues we face concern with are those such as abortion, and the distribution of pharmaceuticals. Religious beliefs are brought to the table and many are forced to violate their conscience. For instance in the case of abortion, it becomes an issue on whether it's just a surgical procedure or murder as others may claim. Also, the question becomes will people be allowed to express their religious freedom or is religious freedom not going to apply?
Davis: What are your hopes for the prison system in general?
Cropsey: My hopes are that productive citizens are released from prison. Indeed, those accused of 1st degree murder should spend the rest of their lives in prison, or the death penalty here in Michigan I think should be reinstituted. I think it's only right if a murderer looses his life, when another life is taken by him/her. I also hope to see outside changes and religious groups being involved.
Davis: So you are an advocate for religious group intervention in the prison system?
Cropsey: Definitely, I think it is necessary to aim towards the goal of ex-criminals transitioning into civilized citizens.
Davis: Do you see prison overcrowding as a problem?
Cropsey: I don't see overcrowding as an issue because there are idle prisons just sitting there that Governor Granholm refuses to open. The reason being is because there is a huge budget problem and this is resulting in the closing down of prisons. To solve this, she needs to bring the cost per prisoner down, and produce efficient programming such as those aiming towards college-level education.
Davis: Do you support reform? If not, why? If so, what specifics of reform would you like to see?
Cropsey: Yes. One thing I can say is that many of those in prison have dynamic gifts of talent that range from writing skills to visual arts. I think that educational programs inside prisons are necessary. However, it would be difficult to implement given our huge budget deficit. Also, many who pay for college already whether for themselves or their children would see this as unfair. It would be an issue of, "I am paying thousand of dollars for my children to attend college, and so why is it just for prisoners to go for free?" There are many incentives to learn, in order to bring the incarceration rate down.
Davis: Referring back to religious interest group intervention in prisons, are there any interest groups that you know of that has tried to help those in prison?
Cropsey: Yes, there is a group called Prison Fellowship under the direction of Chuck Colson. And again, we actually are experiencing what is called "artificial overcrowding" because there is overcrowding due to empty prisons not being put to use. Michigan's cost per prisoner is higher than any other state. It is factual that in Illinois and Indiana, the cost per prisoner is 10-12% lower, data from non-partisan fiscal agencies.
Davis: My research suggest that the budget seems to be a dominant cause of this problem as mentioned previously, what are some ways the budget can be altered/improved to resolve these issues?
Cropsey: A study actually began two years ago and finished months ago. We have only cut the budget by 50 million in over a 5-year period. The governor's goal however was 100 million. The economic situation is bad, and makes this very hard to implement. Granholm's idea is to invest the money being cut into higher education, businesses, and the local communities. Honestly, I don't think there is not that much money to give out. As a result, we see this significant unemployment rate of 15% in Michigan, and an even higher unemployment rate of 30% in Detroit. In this unfortunate case, people choose the route to drugs, robbery, and other acts of crime because of this.
Davis: I agree. I am from Detroit, and you see so much of this occurring. People are desperate and some just simply refuse to work because of laziness. Adults began to lose hope when they are not able to find a stable job, and I think this rubs off onto the youth who see no hope in their future. Some rise up and beyond and decide that this is not what they want for themselves; others just continue to feed onto the ongoing cycle of crime inside the community.
Cropsey: I agree with that. I mean I'm only a white man from a rural area [laughter], but I'm sure you see these instances occurring far more than I do. I'm sure you can relate more than I can. The thing is government programs do not help so much. There are 95% of men in prison and 50% of these men are Black. There needs to be a focus on family in the urban areas that build towards stability in the home. I am opposed to Obama and his advocacy for gay marriage given that every child needs a mother and father in the home. A child does not need two mothers or fathers, but both parents to provide a good example of what family stability consist of. God made both Adam and Eve, and he wanted for both man and woman to be together to provide for their family in the most proper manner.
Davis: I agree with that also. How are your views different from the opposing party?
Cropsey: I hold truth to the Bible. There is an internal and external control that is responsible for an individual's actions. Others hold secular beliefs that this person is okay and that people should be let out of prison to live their lives freely. I do not agree with this. I think it is important to uphold the safety of our environment by keeping those that belong in prison behind bars. A person cannot change instantly; it takes time and effort to change a person, and really a person cannot change unless they want to see the difference in themselves for the better. The idea of letting people out of prison is the view of those who oppose my views and the view of the world/ human kind in general.
Davis: What are the typical challenges that you face passing laws on prison reform?
Cropsey: The most significant/huge challenge becomes, how do we set up prisons in order to develop law abiding citizens when they come out of prison? We need to get down to the family and school level to assure positive father figures are in the home. Moreover, to assure that there are numerous positive role models in one's surroundings to solidify personal capabilities.
Davis: Have your opinions changed about public policy regarding prison reform since being involved in government?
Cropsey: Before I was elected into office, I always thought of prisons being too nice towards inmates. They have so much recreation available to them (i.e. television, sports). Once, I had a chance to sit down with a prison guard before and we talked about the great potential so many of these people have. After being elected, I now hope for the best for those in prison, and I encourage them to go for any opportunity given to them. I agreed with the prison guard that day, and since then my mindset has changed. Giving them little freedom in the system gives them hope, which probably was not there to begin with in relation to their prior surroundings.