Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Bob Guenzel on jail overcrowding

22. November 2006 • Bruce Fields
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Larry Kestenbaum points out County Administrator Bob Guenzel’s letter to the Ann Arbor News:

I am writing to you today to make you aware of a very real perception – mine as well as others’ – that the people of Ann Arbor and surrounding communities are not being well served by the Ann Arbor News in your coverage of public safety and justice, namely the need for expansion of the Washtenaw County Jail.

The complete text is available from Larry’s Blog.



  1. A wish to expand the County Jail is not the same as a need. With crime dropping, and Sheriff Minzey having prioritized the people who are admitted to the jail, the status quo is fine with many citizens.

    It’s really strange to see Guenzel criticizing the AA News. Guenzel has gotten a huge amount of favorable publicity on this issue, which may in part be due to his close personal friendship with Ed Petykiewicz, the News’ publisher.

    With Guenzel now biting the hand that feeds him, I expect we will have a new County Administrator within a year.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 23 '06 - 07:27PM    #
  2. This article from Wednesday’s edition of the Ann Arbor News does not support Robert Guenzel’s complaint that the newspaper goes easy on the Sheriff.

    Sheriff sued over man’s death, 11-22-06, The Ann Arbor News

    The article describes a federal lawsuit filed against the Sheriff regarding the death of an Ypsilanti man. The lawsuit alleges that a number of deputies beat and used chemical spray on the man before he eventually died of asphyxiation, after they all piled on top of him. The lawsuit also alleges a cover-up of the incident by the Sheriff, who refused to release investigative reports and the names of the deputies involved for five months. The attorneys accuse the Sheriff and others of implementing policies that caused the civil rights violations to occur.

    Twice in his letter, Mr. Guenzel cites a concern for “public safety and justice”. If such is really his concern, perhaps it would do the County Administrator well to put down his jail issue for a minute and look at what else is going on around him. The Sheriff’s refusal to release information, cited in the article, is definitely something Mr. Guenzel should be able to address and correct. Especially considering that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) recognizes Mr. Guenzel as the “head of the public body”, and thus the final authority regarding the release of information to the public.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 24 '06 - 01:43PM    #
  3. I sincerely hope and expect that we will not have a new County Administrator within a year. Mr. Guenzel is an excellent County Administrator and I have great respect for his judgment and leadership skills.

    Also, I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Cahill on both the necessity of the jail improvements and the tenor of the AA News’ reporting.

    Most importantly, the situation at the Washtenaw County Jail is a community disgrace. In addition to the chronic overcrowding and the years of sacrificing recreation and programming space for beds; the infrastructure of the jail is woefully inadequate. The kitchen facilities, the property room, the medical suite, the holding cells and the booking/intake area were built for just over 200 inmates. The building itself has not been meaningfully expanded since its opening. Today’s rated capacity is 332 and the daily population is higher than that. Of particular importance – and greatest expense – the jail’s security system needs to be upgraded. The electronic security system has been inoperative for years and the building is on lock and key.

    I would encourage anybody who is unsure about the condition of the County Jail to take a tour. I will be happy to arrange it. If you go, you’ll see that there is no space for recreation in the building because the gym is full of cots. You’ll see that the holding cells are both dilapidated and probably packed full. You’ll also see an old building that has been in hard use for decades, meeting previous overcrowding challenges by reworking the space and poaching every possible nook and cranny for more inmates. Fortunately or unfortunately, as a community we’ve been putting this inevitability off for many years.

    Check out the County Administrator’s recommendations on the jail. There is some good information in that document even though it is from Nov. 2004. Particularly instructive is Appendix A which lists the capacity of other jails in comparatively sized Michigan counties. Even if we add the anticipated 96 beds, our jail will still be relatively small in comparison to other communities of similar size.

    While it is never attractive to spend public resources on something as unglamorous as the jail, our community is growing and these investments will eventually have to be made. After the last millage failed, it seemed clear to me that the public didn’t want a 10-20 year solution. Also, it was clear to me we couldn’t continue to lock the doors of the jail and tell angry citizens that the person just arrested breaking into their home won’t be going to the brig. So, after a year of consideration, investigation and community input the BOC decided to approve a small capacity improvement and an unglamorous, but necessary improvement to the building’s infrastructure.

    Also, one of the community values that the Board of Commissioners identified was a preference for jail diversion and other programs meant to maximize the use the alternative sanctions. As a result, we have funded a mental health diversion program called the Sequential Intercept Team and we continue to work with the Judiciary on improving the alternative sanctions available to them. In short, nobody WANTS to spend precious public resources on dealing with the problems in society; but in my opinion, the County NEEDS to spend some money on the chronically overcrowded and woefully neglected County Jail.

    With respect to the Ann Arbor News and its coverage of the county, I would encourage a careful reading of Mr. Guenzel’s
    letter which is the subject of this posting. I think that this letter speaks for itself and what I see is a heartfelt attempt to get some serious consideration of the editorial decisions that are stilting the information that the public receives from its local paper. This letter is part of an ongoing effort by all of us at the County to encourage the AA News to portray the most accurate stories possible. It is my hope that the most detailed and accurate information possible gets out there for public consideration.


       —Jeff Irwin    Nov. 24 '06 - 11:47PM    #
  4. Also, it was clear to me we couldn’t continue to lock the doors of the jail and tell angry citizens that the person just arrested breaking into their home won’t be going to the brig.“-#3, 6th paragraph

    Mr. Irwin, is this hyperbole? Or do you know of a specific incident where a B&E suspect was turned away from the jail? Is this bit of knowledge you’re offering us the sourced type? Or is it of the “anecdotal“ variety? Does it belong with the almanacs, encyclopedias, and dictionaries? Or should it go over with the “This-Is-Your-Brain-On-Drugs“-commercials? Exactly which kind of “detailed and accurate information“ are we talking about here?

    If you can provide support for this, Mr. Irwin, I swear I’ll never publicly doubt your word, again.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 25 '06 - 02:15AM    #
  5. Sorry, Jeff, but you’re suffering from bad data. Our community may be growing, but crime (both the raw numbers and the rate) is dropping. Please focus on this reality. We are a mid-sized college town, and so comparisons with other places are not that helpful.

    Jail expansion might have made sense a decade ago. But now it doesn’t.

    The decline in crime is a favorable trend. We should rejoice in it, and not construct yet one more building to feed Guenzel’s edifice complex.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 25 '06 - 03:47AM    #
  6. In answer to Mr. Schil’s question – yes there have been many incidents where people who broke into homes (and cars)have been turned away from the jail because the Sheriff refused entry. I know of two specifically in Ypsilanti City, one in which the city paid for two suspects to be taken to the Lenawee County Jail, which they paid for from City funds. It is a mandated service that the County is supposed to provide a jail for all the jurisdictions, even those which pay for their own police. Just ask any local police chief and you will get a boatload of similar incidents.

    As to Mr. Cahill’s comment, “We are a midsize college town” – that is thinking with blinders on. We are a fast growing COUNTY and that is what the obligation of a COUNTY jail is – to serve all the citizens of the County. The county is comprised of far more than the city of Ann Arbor. What was NOT reported in the AA News was the plea from the Mayor of Ypsilanti at the Oct. 18 Board meeting, to please do something about all the criminals returning to the community and committing further crimes. This is where public safety issues really hit home. As a Commissioner, it is my duty to take into consideration the needs of the entire county, not just the “midsize college town” of Ann Arbor.

    Jeff Irwin is accurate and correct in his posting. I appreciate his thoughtful and cogent remarks on the matter.

    As to another matter, the Ann Arbor News, in its article in today’s paper, says that the county wants to “eliminate road patrol subsidies – forcing townships to pay the full cost of contracted deputies…” That is totally false, and I have e-mailed the reporter to object to his innaccuracies. The Board of Commissioners worked long and hard to come to a compromise that would reduce the subsidy, but not by as much as some Commissioners would have liked, but by more than many jurisdictions desired. As they say, if both sides are unhappy, it must be a good compromise. In any case, the subsidies for deputies continue throughout the four year contracts, 2006 – 2009.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 25 '06 - 03:37PM    #
  7. County crime figures are driven by AA and Ypsi – both college towns. My comments about the dramatic drop in the number of crimes and arrests were based on the county-wide figures from the Michigan State Police Uniform Crime Reports.

    While everyone is engaged in a finger-pointing contest, let me point the finger at our local judges. Since the raw number of arrests have dropped, why are we not seeing a corresponding drop in the jail population?

    The answer is that the judges are using jail more often, proportionately, than they used to. And remember that the overwhelming majority of folks in the jail have not been convicted of anything. People are largely being held prior to trial.

    I don’t do much criminal work, but anecdotes about the abuse of jail by judges are legion among my colleagues. My favorite is the person who was sentenced to jail for wearing his hat in court!

    If some of our judges would reduce their addiction to incarceration, the jail population would be brought more into line with the declining number of arrests.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 25 '06 - 04:34PM    #
  8. On the tangent of alternatives to incarceration:

    Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat

    Research with British and US offenders suggests nutritional
    deficiencies may play a key role in aggressive bevaviour

    Felicity Lawrence
    Tuesday October 17, 2006
    The Guardian

    That Dwight Demar is able to sit in front of us, sober, calm, and
    employed, is “a miracle”, he declares in the cadences of a
    prayer-meeting sinner. He has been rocking his 6ft 2in bulk to and
    fro while delivering a confessional account of his past into the
    middle distance. He wants us to know what has saved him after 20
    years on the streets: “My dome is working. They gave me some kind
    of pill and I changed. Me, myself and I, I changed.”

    Demar has been in and out of prison so many times he has lost
    count of his convictions. “Being drunk, being disorderly,
    trespass, assault and battery; you name it, I did it. How many
    times I been in jail? I don’t know, I was locked up so much it was
    my second home.”

    Demar has been taking part in a clinical trial at the US
    government’s National Institutes for Health, near Washington. The
    study is investigating the effects of omega-3 fatty acid
    supplements on the brain, and the pills that have effected Demar’s
    “miracle” are doses of fish oil. …

    [full article at link above]

    Jeff or Leah, do either of you know if there’s currently (or has ever been) some type of a followup nutritional program for former jail inmates? Seems like it might be a worthwhile investment that would mesh with efforts to support the people who grow foods locally. Does the jail use locally grown/raised food?

    David, please consider being the first to not point fingers (as you inexplicably perceive “everyone” to be doing), rather than perpetuating a divisive behavior.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 25 '06 - 05:16PM    #
  9. To be precise, Ms. Gunn, the apparently anecdotal assertion by Mr. Irwin involved “angry citizens” being told that the perp that was just arrested trying to break into their house, would not be going to “the brig”. This would infer that the perp would remain in the community, free to potentially break into another house or even the same house again.

    What you suggest with your (almost equally anecdotal) example is that the suspects were taken (from WashCo jail?) to a jail in a neighboring county. This is a substantially different situation, which does NOT involve the suspects being immediately released into the community, free to break into more houses.

    Once again, an attempt to separate the facts from the hyperbolic sales pitch proves unsuccessful.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 25 '06 - 05:35PM    #
  10. Steve – I doubt very much that the jail uses locally grown products, but you might want to check with Sheriff Minzey about that.

    As to followup with former jail inmates, that is a project which many of us on the Board would love to see, but resources are limited. As Jeff pointed out, in the new jail bond, there is money allocated to divert people with mental health issues. You are probably familiar with the fact that is it hard enough to find housing for ex-inmates, much less nutritional counseling. Many of the Delonis Center guests are former inmates, of both jail and prison, and there are efforts afoot to find foundation and private money to establish a program to provide housing and services for them.

    I know that there is a program in the county to provide WIC recipients (Womens, Infants, Children fron low income families) with Farmers’ Market vouchers – so that is at least a start – and addresses root causes, at the beginning of life.

    We are always working on solutions. But it’s hard.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 25 '06 - 05:35PM    #
  11. I work at the University of Michigan. We had a break-in a few years ago in the building where I work, where two men used a stolen student ID card to gain access to the building, break in to several rooms, and steal computer equipment. Luckily, they were caught on tape by the security cameras installed in one part of the building. AAPD officers were able to ID them on sight, because the men have done this sort of thing so many times before. They were found, arrested, brought to trail…and released back onto the street because the judge said there wasn’t enough room in the jail to hold them. Given their past history, and the fact that they suffered no consequences when they were caught, I’m sure they’ve broken into more places since then. So yes, I have no trouble believing that the jail is overcrowded and that they are turning away people.


       —KEF    Nov. 25 '06 - 06:24PM    #
  12. They were found, arrested, brought to trail…and released back onto the street because the judge said there wasn’t enough room in the jail to hold them.“-Post#11

    KEF, is your account based on primary source information? Can you provide a case number or a newspaper article or any source from where you obtained your information? One of the reasons I ask is because there appears to be a gap in your timeline. What happened at the three dots between where they were brought to trial and where they were released back onto the street? Were they found guilty? Acquitted? Did the judge intervene before the trial was completed?

    If you are simply repeating what you were told by someone, then your source is no better than mine right now. Well, maybe a little better if you know the person’s name who told you this. Right now all I have are initials.

    This thread continues to contain only anecdotal accounts to support this “Small-Jail-Allows-Criminals-To-Remain-Free”-meme. So on the credibility scale, this ranks right up there with sightings of the Virgin Mary on a tortilla.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 26 '06 - 12:44AM    #
  13. KEF,

    If you did a snapshot of the current jail population by listing the inmates and what they are in for, I’m sure a number of them are in jail for offenses that are less obnoxious than the offenses you describe. Furthermore, you did not say if the people you describe spent significant time in jail waiting for trial and I’m sure they will end up in the State Prison system at some point anyway. I think it is wrong to assume the criminals you speak of do not suffer a consequence just because one particular time they got lucky. The jail overcrowding issue is a manufactured crisis that can be solved by releasing people who are less of a threat than the new inmates coming into the system. No other advanced country jails or imprisions people at the rate our country does, so why do we even need so much jail space anyway? The experts keep saying that incarcaration is a policy choice and is not mandatory. What are we really getting for so much human misery inflicted on the inmate population? I believe the incarcaration industry is just that, an industry, which like the cigarette industry is selling the public a load of crap; we could probably do just fine with half the jail and prison space we currently have in the State. Judges are not qualified to determine how many people should be in jail; why can’t science give us a much better answer?
       —Chuck    Nov. 26 '06 - 01:03AM    #
  14. Michael: how ‘bout you? Got any evidence to back up your assertion that everything’s fine? Or is your MO simply to challenge everybody else and hope nobody questions you? I mean, I can understand that you’re upset that the Michigan Labor Relations Commission dismissed your charges against the County , but that doesn’t mean you need to take it out your anger with the County on other people in this discussion.

    At any rate, maybe I can proffer up some numbers that might meet your standard for “facts”. My source is City of Ypsilanti Police Chief Matt Harshberger, at a community meeting held at the Ypsilanti Senior Center this past Monday. Other residents who attended that meeting have commented on it , and, if that’s not enough, you can watch the video of the meeting shot by one attendee. Oh, and it wasn’t just Chief Harshberger – the County Jail Administrator, Kirk Filsinger, was at the meeting too, and provided some of the numbers.

    * 70% of inmates at the jail are pre-trial, including 14 (4.2% of total inmate population) who are awaiting murder trials. The jail isn’t full of people who have been sentenced for failing to take off a hat; most of them are the people still awaiting trial.

    * Yes, pre-trial means they haven’t been found guilty yet, but often we as a society consider it a reasonable idea to lock up somebody who is awaiting trial on something like rape, murder, robbery, domestic violence, or home invasion.

    * 30% of inmates have been sentenced, or are awaiting trial on, domestic violence charges. Again, I expect that failing to remove one’s hat is probably not counted as domestic violence. Mr. Filsinger also stated that the jail currently contains a number of inmates sentenced or awaiting trial on criminal sexual conduct charges.

    * The Ypsilanti Police have had 124 prisoners turned away from the jail since September 28, due to the overcrowding. These 124 prisoners represented around 190 charges, including home invasion, of both occupied and unoccupied homes. The Police have also been turned away when they’ve attempted to bring in prisoners on charges of parole violation or outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions.

    * Chief Harshberger noted that the Saline, Chelsea, Pittsfield, and Ann Arbor police departments have been having the same problem – prisoners turned away from the jail. In fact, even the Sheriff himself has been letting suspected perps go, because he has no room for anybody’s prisoners. He did not offer numbers, except for Chelsea’s contribution (3 prisoners).

    * Leah offers, above, the example of two prisoners that the Ypsi Police transported to the Lenawee County jail – you state that this is a “different problem” than the one of suspected perps being let go. It’s not, however – these were simply the first two that the Ypsi PD had cycled through enough times that they resorted to approaching another jail – the Chief notes that one had 12 charges against him from 3-4 different arrests in the past 2 months. This costs Ypsi about $40/day for each prisoner, so it’s not a good long-term solution.

    Now, if you should think that I’m blindly shouting to lock-em-up, you might try googling for my opinions on the jail millage from February ’05. I was vocally against that proposal – much to my chagrin, when I got enough facts only after the millage vote to realize I’d been wrong. With the County ending out-boarding to other County jails, the problem has become that much more acute, and there are facts to say so.

    Michael, I’d advise that you save your sneering tone about “credibility” and “anecdotal accounts” for those times when you’re actually right – if you’re not working from “facts” either, you risk exposure.


       —Murph.    Nov. 26 '06 - 01:34AM    #
  15. Chuck,

    The early release of current inmates by the Sheriff is an option that the Chief did advocate at the meeting. Not a good option, necessarily, but one of the best we have for short-term relief. The Jail Administrator disagreed at this point, stating that this had already been done to the extent that he or the Sheriff believe wise. In the lead-up to the current over-crowding crisis, the less-threatening inmates had already been released, and the Administrator seemed to think the jail population had been distilled to the people he didn’t personally want to release. “The ones we have left are people you don’t want out on the streets,” he commented. The Chief replied that nor do you want out on the streets the guy who was just arrested for home invasion, and who hasn’t even had time to come down off his crack high at the time that the police have to release him for lack of space. If our only options are variations of catch-and-release, the Chief preferred to at least cycle arrestees through the jail and release the ones who had had “time to dry out”.

    The Jail Administrator objected that a few weeks wasn’t enough time for real rehab for alcoholic or drug-addicted inmates; the County’s rehab program takes 6 to 9 months. Cycling arrestees through wouldn’t do them any good. It was at this point that I found out that the County Jail at one point allowed people to check themselves in for rehab, as a last resort – since the past few years of overcrowding, though, that hasn’t been an option available to the desperate.

    Chuck, I agree strongly that our country’s prison system is ridiculous. Just to hit another common objection while I’m at it, I think the war on drugs is completely off-base. However. Neither of these are problems that we can fix within our County, all by ourselves, simply by releasing prisoners. I agree that we need to develop – and spend money on – alternatives to incarceration and to treatment of root causes, but I think it would be a terrible mistake to state that the current crisis is somehow desirable because it counteracts these broader problems.


       —Murph.    Nov. 26 '06 - 01:56AM    #
  16. And, for the hat trick:

    Steve,

    You asked about local foods in the prison system. I think the answer is “no”. I can offer you an anecdote from Amanda Edmonds, Director of Growing Hope.

    In 2005 (no numbers yet for this year), the Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign run by Food Gatherers received nearly 8,000 pounds of produce grown and donated by inmates in the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility. (See the notice on Food Gatherers’ page ) Apparently, the Women’s Facility has a pretty active community of gardeners – but the prison was not able to use the produce in its own kitchens, because its contracts with its suppliers forbade it. Oops – at least the food could go to a good cause.


       —Murph.    Nov. 26 '06 - 02:05AM    #
  17. Thanks for all the numbers, Murph. I’ll restate your advice—let’s call it feedback—to Michael: questions are helpful and necessary; beyond that, characterizations don’t have much value and usually don’t result in such useful responses (as Murph’s.)

    Neither of these are problems that we can fix within our County, all by ourselves, simply by releasing prisoners.

    “…simply by releasing prisoners.” Of course not.

    “…within our County, all by ourselves…”. Why not? I think this is a matter of political and community will, not resources. Consider what we’ve done by rallying around Food Gatherers and the system they work within to feed people in our county. I think we could comparably address crime and its causes/precedents if we decided to care about those people as much as we do the hungry (some of whom are in both groups.) Of course, state and federal resources would help, but we don’t necessarily need outside leadership on this. Do you agree, Murph?


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 26 '06 - 02:07AM    #
  18. Michael: how ‘bout you? Got any evidence to back up your assertion that everything’s fine? Or is your MO simply to challenge everybody else and hope nobody questions you? I mean, I can understand that you’re upset that the Michigan Labor Relations Commission dismissed your charges against the County, but that doesn’t mean you need to take it out your anger with the County on other people in this discussion.“-Post#14, Murph.

    Murph, do you know me? (No, I don’t mean in the biblical way.) So why the harsh words, dude? Did I pick on one of your friends? I’m betting it was something I said to one of the commissioners. So which one are you sticking up for? Leah Gunn?

    If you would have googled my name without the words “ann” and “arbor”, you would have found another one of my cases against Washtenaw County that was dismissed by MERC. (pdf is here) This one is far more interesting and important because it involves my charge that the County implemented their CDL and drug testing programs through fraudulent means and that the County has no lawful basis for ordering their employees to pee in a cup. Go ahead and scroll down about two-thirds of the way and you’ll see that I allege these facts against Washtenaw County:

    1. Greg Roling of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration confirms in his November 21, 2003 letter that his agency has no record of the communication described by Washtenaw County administrator Donna Sabourin, in her July 7, 2000 memo to her staff. The memo asserts specifically that Sabourin “learned that the Federal Regulations had been changed requiring drivers of vehicles of 8 passengers and above who provide transportation for compensation to now be required to hold a CDL.” Sabourin used this supposed communication as the sole justification for imposing her new CDL and drug testing policies on her employees.

    2. Roling also states in his letter that vehicles that seat 9-15 passengers do not require a CDL to operate, contrary to what Sabourin asserts in her memo.

    Now Murph, why don’t you go ahead and ask your commissioner friend about this and see how quickly they try to change the subject. Of course, the implications of these alleged facts are significant. If the County’s Donna Sabourin did in fact make all this stuff up about the DOT changing its regulations—then the courts will order the County to discontinue them, and that means that myself and every other poor sap that Washtenaw County has fired since mid-2000 because of these false policies will be looking for the lawful remedy they are entitled to!

    But my cases were dismissed you say, so I must not have a valid claim. Yes, MERC did dismiss these cases, but I filed a timely appeal to both of them. Here’s my appeal for the case you found, and here’s the appeal for this CDL/drug testing case. If you scroll down the docket listings, you’ll see that I filed my briefs on 11/08/2005 and 05/05/2006. If you scroll down a little further, you’ll see that Washtenaw County didn’t file a brief in either of these cases. So the Court of Appeals is going to consider all of my arguments with no rebuttal from the County? Just think of what that must mean. I like my chances.

    Now scroll down all the way to the bottom and you’ll see that both of my appeals are coming up for case call on December 13, 2006. So in barely over two weeks the Court of Appeals will decide whether Washtenaw County’s CDL and drug testing policies are valid or not. And whether the County employees who have fallen victim to these fraudulent policies are entitled to their remedy.

    Murph, thanks for bringing this stuff up. You definitely uncovered the source of my “attitude”. I’m trying to win one for the people here, so you should be cheering me on. But of course your apparent allegience to the commissioners may get in the way of that, here.

    I desperately need to “lawyer-up”, so any interested attorneys who are adept at class-action employment law should call me here , or email me here , the sooner the better.

    Oh yeah, back to the jail issue we were talking about. Go ahead and build your big jail if it matters that damn much to you. It really doesn’t matter to me either way. I live in Monroe County. :-)


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 26 '06 - 04:04PM    #
  19. Thanks for the added info, people!

    Sure, lots of folks are in the jail who are charged with (but not convicted of) serious crimes. My experience with the criminal justice system tells me that the County Prosecutor’s Office tends to “over-charge”, and that of those who are eventually found guilty of something, many will be found guilty (or plead guilty) to reduced charges.

    But there are lots of people who are in jail for conduct that is not very serious: traffic offenses, probation violations, and hat offenses.

    The best way to learn what kinds of folks are being sent to jail prior to trial is to show up at an arraignment day in any of the district courts and watch the proceedings.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 26 '06 - 05:30PM    #
  20. Thanks for all the numbers, Murph. I’ll restate your advice—let’s call it feedback—to Michael: questions are helpful and necessary; beyond that, characterizations don’t have much value and usually don’t result in such useful responses (as Murph’s.)“-Post#17, Steve Bean

    Steve, if you and Murph are not fond of my “characterizations” of some of the unsubstantiated claims put forth in this thread, then maybe one of you can help me verify the integrity of the data Murph “proved me wrong” with.

    In his response to myself, Murph included the following paragraph, which, by the bold type, I assume was intended to rebut my claim that the evidence to support that B&E suspects were being turned away from the jail, was purely anecdotal.

    strong>The Ypsilanti Police have had 124 prisoners turned away from the jail since September 28, due to the overcrowding. These 124 prisoners represented around 190 charges, including home invasion, of both occupied and unoccupied homes. The Police have also been turned away when they’ve attempted to bring in prisoners on charges of parole violation or outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions.

    Murph also included a link to a posting on another site, ypsilanti under siege , which includes notes taken from a meeting held by Ypsi’s Police Chief, Matt Harshberger.

    I wanted to find the source from which Murph got that the turned away suspects had charges against them “ including home invasion, of both occupied and unoccupied homes.” So I scanned the notes taken from the meeting and I found this paragraph, which seems to pertain to the “124 prisoners” mentioned by Murph.

    Between September 28, when our Commissioners decided to stop the practice of out-boarding, and November 20 (today), 124 people have been arrested, and taken to the country jail, only to be released. The work of our police department (which has decreased in size from 54 officers to 40 in the past several years) has become the repeated apprehension of the same individuals for the same crimes. This, as you can imagine, is keeping them from other tasks.

    I see no mention of Murph’s fact that the 124 included those charged with “home invasion”. I see that “home invasion” is mentioned in the preceding paragraph, with respect to a rise in property crimes, but there’s no indication that any of the turned away 124 suspects were charged with “home invasion”.

    So I have to wonder if Murph conflated the two facts into one, for the purpose of “proving me wrong” in his response. Of course, a law enforcement official may have in fact stated what Murph represents him as stating. But the link Murph provided doesn’t support such.

    Oh ok, then. I won’t apologize to either of the commissioners, and I don’t apologize to people who only provide initials. But I apologize for my characterization of all those who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary in a tortilla shell.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 26 '06 - 08:04PM    #
  21. Why can’t we build a low cost pole barn to house non-violent suspects that have not yet had their court dates. Why is it necessary to have recreational facilities on site? Why do we provide better housing to suspected criminals than we do for our armed forces? Shouldn’t short term incarceration be under austere conditions?


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 26 '06 - 11:13PM    #
  22. Michael, the source for both Murph and Mark Maynard was the proceedings of the meeting itself.


       —Dale    Nov. 27 '06 - 12:43AM    #
  23. Ann Arbor Commissioners and Community leaders

    Why don’t you take a look at the Eagle EDS Detention System. For a 96 bed facility it cost less than $9.00 per bed per day to lease. They have been approved by the MI D.O.C. as High Medium Security Housing. This will give you the time to evaluate the real problem without spending alot of tax dollars.

    Tim Tobin
    ttobin@eaglemodular.com


       —Tim Tobin    Nov. 27 '06 - 02:03AM    #
  24. Dale, yes I would assume that. But are Murph’s notes, which differ from Maynard’s notes, first-hand accounts? That is, did Murph attend the meeting himself and jot down the notes while listening to the officer speak? I’m just a bit confused at how Murph came on here and said, “Michael, you’re wrong, and here’s why.” but then his notes differ from the notes on the link he gives. So I don’t know if Murph’s notes were composed in real time while he (or someone else?) was at the meeting, or if the notes are just his recollection (or someone else’s?) of what was said at the meeting, possibly even written *after he decided to respond to my post. I thought it was a bit sloppy of Murph to not identify in detail what he was giving me, especially since he thought his facts were proving me wrong. I still don’t know why Maynard’s notes didn’t include Murph’s detail that the 124 suspects that were turned away from jail included some that were charged with “home invasion”.

    I don’t mean to belabor this thing, but determining the facts regarding sources of information, and thereby knowing how much weight to give each competing source, is essential if one wants to get to the closest approximation of the truth as possible. Maybe if there were more pains like me asking questions when that WMDs in Iraq hysteria was going on, then maybe things wouldn’t have gone as far as they have. But then again, maybe the pains like me would have just been taken out and shot for “helping the terrorists”, so who knows.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 27 '06 - 02:05AM    #
  25. No worries, Michael; I’m sure no one would have taken notice.


       —Dale    Nov. 27 '06 - 03:38AM    #
  26. Michael – shall I repeat the part where the primary source material is readily available? Since you will so obviously trust nothing that comes from anybody who thinks there’s a problem, I suggest you go to the source, and watch the video of the meeting .

    But, yes, I was there, and what I presented above were merged from Mark’s comments, in the post I linked to, and my own (not online) notes from the meeting.


       —Murph.    Nov. 27 '06 - 11:22PM    #
  27. Murph, you confused me in your post#14 when you linked to Maynard’s notes and then wrote “and if that’s not enough you can watch the video”. What confused me was that Maynard’s notes did not claim that some of the turned away prisoners had broken into homes. So I couldn’t understand why you would have thought it was “enough” when it didn’t support what you were trying to prove to me. So I didn’t bother watching the video because I figured that since your link which you thought was “enough”, didn’t prove your point, then the video probably wouldn’t either. And the thoughts of sitting through a nearly two hour video and not finding what you was telling me was there, didn’t appeal to me. And I guess it can be read either way, but I wasn’t sure that you were actually telling me that you were at the meeting, personally. So that made me question the origin of your notes.

    But now that you made it clear that you actually attended the meeting yourself, I watched the video, and I agree that your notes are an accurate summary of the meeting. Ypsilanti Police Chief Matt Harshberger also convinced me that B&E suspects are in fact being turned away from the jail and released back into the community. So I will take that bit of info out of the suspected hyperbole category and re-file it where it belongs. Primary source information! There’s nothing quite like it.

    The video was quite informative. But now I’m trying to understand the reasoning behind the decision to stop boarding out prisoners. If you think your jail is too small, then why wouldn’t you want to make room for the new prisoners, by sending some of the ones you already have, somewhere else?

    In the second paragraph of post#6, Commissioner Leah Gunn is concerned about “public safety issues” and “criminals returning to the community and committing further crimes”. But isn’t this is a situation that Ms. Gunn helped create herself with the decision to stop boarding out prisoners? So was Leah just being ironical?

    Was the reasoning behind the decision, “we’ll make people notice how bad it is by making it even worse. Maybe then they’ll finally want to do something about it!”

    The people getting their stuff stolen because of the decision to stop making room for new prisoners could incite a change in that policy by breaking into the cars of the commissioners! They couldn’t go to jail for it! But the commissioners might quickly change the policy just to make room in jail for those people…. and then change it right back again.

    A man in the video talked about needing to get rid of all the slumlords. When the slumlords are gone, are the slums gone, too? Do those people get to live in the nice houses, then?

    Murph, have you seen in a poker game when a player asks another player how many chips they have? Usually, the asking player can see the chips and knows the answer but just wants to hear the other player speak, to try to get some kind of a read on them, and figure out how good of a hand they must have. To avoid giving away what kind of cards they’re hiding, the player being asked has to just sit there expressionless, and not say anything to anybody.

    But sometimes another player with good intentions will blurt out the answer and ruin the whole thing. :-)


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 28 '06 - 01:42PM    #
  28. My understanding is that problem with boarding out prisoners had a lot to do with the cost. Even apart from the issues with jail capacity and so on, the county board oversees the budget, and spending on corrections is wildly over budget.

    Further, the sheriff and the county board, in a moment of amity a few months ago, worked out the deal to end boarding-out. That’s why the sheriff’s denunciation left the commissioners baffled and angry.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 28 '06 - 03:21PM    #
  29. Hopefully everybody had a nice Thanksgiving.

    First off, thanks to Murph for finding some source material that is posted on the web. I found that video very interesting – which of course proves that I am a nerd. I was especially interested to hear the thoughts of Commissioner Peterson and future Commissioner Ken Schwartz. It sounds as though they have some ideas about how to improve our county’s criminal justice system and I’ll be interested to hear them.

    In the meantime, I wanted to offer some more thoughts that I hope will answer some of the questions posed here. I want to start by saying that I believe we lock up far too many Americans. In fact, I believe that our criminal justice system is broken because we give up on individuals too soon, sometimes over indiscretions that are victimless.

    These thoughts lead me to prioritize the provision of alternative sentencing methods. Before we focus on the capacity to lock up more arrestees and convicted criminals, I want to make sure that Washtenaw County is doing everything that we can to reduce the jail population to only the individuals who “need” to be there. That means new investments in mental health diversion and post-incarceration reintegration services. That also means expanding programs such as electronic tethering, Community Corrections and Juvenile Diversion. We are making those investments and I hope that the resources that the public is providing to these programs will be utilized by the courts and the Sheriff.

    Which brings us to one of the key problems: Even if we all agreed that the jail should only be for people who “need” to be there, there are significant disagreements about what constitutes a “violent” crime or a serious enough offense to warrant detention before or after trial. The judges play the central role in making this determination but others have a stake in this decision-making as well. Because of the shared responsibilities between the County, the Courts and the Sheriff, the County Board created the Criminal Justice Collaborative Council (CJCC). This body has been charged with reviewing the criminal justice system to maximize the value the public sees from the roughly $50 million/year that we invest in “Public Safety and Justice.” (Primary source material for these numbers is the 2006-7 County Budget summary. Pages 7 and 8 are the most direct route.) Unfortunately, I read a letter from the Sheriff today stating that he no longer was willing to collaborate with the CJCC and that he opposes the County’s plan to improve the jail because the proposed expansion does not provide the number of new beds he believes are necessary.

    I believe that our current plan strikes a reasonable balance between doing nothing to improve this embarrassing facility and building the giant jail that Sheriff Minzey advocates.

    Getting back to one of David Cahill’s questions, I asked Chief Judge Archie Brown the very same question you asked here. “If crime is down, why is jail population higher?” Unfortunately, the details of our exchange are not in the minutes (Not to worry Mr. Kestenbaum, Mr. Kirschner can’t possibly write down every one of my questions, that’s why we videotape the meetings). From recollection, Chief Judge Brown referenced a series of 1990’s “get-tough” reforms in Lansing, such as “truth in sentencing” laws that have extended the length of sentences. A small increase in sentencing lengths can drastically effect the jail population because if the 300+ inmates are staying longer on average, then the space that they would have vacated remains full while a future “guest” stacks up with a similarly longer sentence. Also, Judge Brown asserted that the percentage of total cases that are serious enough to warrant jail time is larger now. Chief Judge Brown came to our October 5 Working Session and Judge Simpson came to our October 19 Working Session to address these issues.

    The final question that I noticed over the weekend flurry of posts was that raised by Mr. Schils after watching the video that Murph referenced. Why did the County and the Sheriff stop out-boarding of inmates at other facilities?

    Larry Kestenbaum is of course correct that cost was/is a major issue. In addition and in greater specificity, the main issues were the violation of our purchasing policy, extreme budget over-runs in the Sheriff’s department, the lack of services available to inmates in other county jails, and a complete lack of accountability surrounding a sudden and a still unjustified spike in the quantity of boarded out inmates.

    First, the County has a procurement/purchasing policy that all county departments must follow when spending the public’s dollars. Sheriff Minzey violated this policy when he unilaterally sent dozens of inmates all over Michigan without a contract or budget adjustment. Washtenaw County did have contracts with a few different county jails in nearby counties. We held those contracts for years, maybe decades, as a means of dealing with temporary spikes in jail population. As a short term solution, this is a cost effective option. Unfortunately, the current jail overcrowding problem can no longer be classified as a short-term spike; and Minzey’s decision to nonetheless keep shipping inmates around the state and back again was no longer cost-effective.

    This relates to the second reason to suspend the boarding out of inmates earlier this year: extreme budget over-runs in the Sheriff’s department. In addition to the cost of the boarding out itself, Washtenaw County was footing the bill for the transportation costs incumbent to sending inmates all over Michigan and then back again for each court hearing. Sheriff Minzey even sent prisoners as far as Leelanau County. Unbudgeted overtime to pay for transportation of these prisoners isn’t included in the apparently “low price” of housing these individuals in other counties.

    Additionally, one of the reasons that our costs are so comparatively high in Washtenaw County is because of the programming that we provide in the jail. All of the reintegration services, community corrections, mental health services and educational services are available in our jail as an effort to reduce recidivism and improve the opportunities available to the incarcerated. When inmates are sent to other jails, those services are not provided. Not only is this bad for the inmates and the community for the immediately apparent reasons, it also means that if these inmates would deserve a reduction in their sentence, they will not get it. Once the inmates are in Ionia or Leelanau County Jail, they are out of sight, out of mind. There is no pressure to then work with these inmates and this falls short of our community goals and values.

    Finally, I felt that there was a lack of accountability vis a vis the questions that the Board was asking of Sheriff Minzey. When the spike in boarding out occurred, the Board drafted a series of questions and asked the Sheriff to attend an upcoming County Board meeting to discuss the questions and hopefully answer them. He initially refused. Speaking for myself, that was undesirable behavior for an elected official and it shed considerable doubt on the very costly decisions he was making. Accessibility and accountability are important principles in government service and I think all elected officials should be willing to account for their decisions. Many of these questions remain unanswered and the Board of Commissioners is still interested in further dialogue with the Sheriff.

    Eventually, the Sheriff did come to the board. During that June 7 meeting, Sheriff Minzey and Bob Guenzel recommended a cessation of out-boarding. You can read about that decision and some of the elements that the BOC considered here. Or perhaps more useful than the minutes is the agenda, from there you can link to the resolution and the power-point presentation.

    I hope that this is helpful in terms of answering questions and motivating support for the difficult decisions that the board has been making concerning public safety and justice.


       —Jeff Irwin    Nov. 29 '06 - 04:46AM    #
  30. Ok, feel free to call me a nerd, but this last post is yet another example as to why Arbor Update rocks.

    So cool. So many decision makers on this thing. Heck, I didn’t even know what the hell a weblog was until just a few years ago. It’s neat to have watched this site and the concepts behind it grow…..

    Ok, end of naive gushing.

    Jeff, thanks for your illuminating and lucid post.

    Happy Thanksgiving right back at you. (Gobble-Gobble)


       —todd    Nov. 29 '06 - 05:57AM    #
  31. “Additionally, one of the reasons that our costs are so comparatively high in Washtenaw County is because of the programming that we provide in the jail. All of the reintegration services, community corrections, mental health services and educational services are available in our jail as an effort to reduce recidivism and improve the opportunities available to the incarcerated. When inmates are sent to other jails, those services are not provided.”

    Is there any evidence that these expensive programs work at all? How can these desireable outcomes be accomplished during the very short time most persons are incarcerated in the county jail? Typically, when the evidence shows that the additional expenses are ineffective, the argument goes out that we need even more funding to make them work. So the taxpayer continues to pay ever increasing amounts for programs with very limited effectiveness. But, the numbers of persons employed at all levels of government increase therefore making the argument that current supervisors need additional salary increases because of their expanded responsibilities, and the cycle goes on ad nauseum.

    Alternatively, we can make the jail experience to be less accomodating so as to not encourage recidivism. It will cost of far less money and make the criminals think twice before they commit the next crime. We should use our limited educational funds to provide opportunities to honest, law abiding citizens. This money would be far more likely to achieve the intended results and could also be an incentive for a young person to avoid a life of crime in the first place. Persons who break the law should not be rewarded with educational opportunities denied to law abiding citizens. If you want more criminals, keep improving the jail system – it’s already better than many person’s home life.


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 29 '06 - 02:08PM    #
  32. Alternatively, we can make the jail experience to be less accomodating so as to not encourage recidivism. It will cost of far less money and make the criminals think twice before they commit the next crime.

    Is there any evidence that this would work at all?


       —Dale    Nov. 29 '06 - 03:38PM    #
  33. First, I’ll second Todd’s thanks to Jeff. Valuable use of your time as a commissioner, Jeff. I hope we don’t abuse it here.

    Karen’s question came to my mind as well (though without the somewhat inaccurate recriminations about the growth of “all levels of government”.) Can someone point us to any followup studies or reports on recidivism relative to other counties using other programs?

    Dale’s got a point in his counter-question, Karen. Your suggestion sounds like wishful thinking. Sure, “criminals think twice”, but tomorrow’s another day for them just like for the rest of us, and with time the memory of jail fades and the hope of not getting caught increases (I’m supposing.) Of course, pigeon-holing people as “criminals” isn’t a useful (let alone compassionate) approach.

    Also, one person’s “honest, law abiding citizens” are another’s privileged, over-entitled, tax-evading, marriage-vow breaking, undeserved-wealth inheritors and freeway speeders with connections with more of the same—yes, just as narrow-minded and indiscriminate as your label.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 29 '06 - 04:25PM    #
  34. Oh, give me a break! “Honest, law abiding citizens” is a narrow-minded, indiscriminate label? What do you call persons who don’t break any laws?

    Or is it the term “criminal” that is objectionable? What is the current PC term?


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 29 '06 - 04:38PM    #
  35. Karen, I ask again — Is there any evidence that this would work at all?


       —Dale    Nov. 29 '06 - 05:12PM    #
  36. Dale,
    Do you think we could do a indepth study, cross-cultural, longitudinal to evaluate? Perhaps hire a few dozen more pencil pushers, enlist the help of nearby Universities which will then publish the results of their hugely expensive study: maybe.

    I’ll bet neither method reduces recidivism and therefore I’ll go with the least expensive alternative to achieve the same ultimate result.


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 29 '06 - 05:19PM    #
  37. You’ve been given ‘a break’ (in this sense, anyway) for probably too long, Karen. I’m asking you to think—and to try to understand the perspective of others.

    “What do you call persons who don’t break any laws?”

    Figments of someone’s imagination. We all break laws in our culture. Why? Because we have laws. (I’ll make another appeal for you all to read the Ishmael series by Daniel Quinn.)

    “Criminals” are characters in comic books and movies. People in real life who break laws are just “people” with their own history and experiences and stresses that, if we try, we can relate to and maybe understand. And if we try a little harder we can help them—the ones who get ‘caught’, that is—to (at least) avoid breaking the laws that are meant to prevent the more serious consequences. Assigning a label to them doesn’t help them and is shortsighted from the perspective of the rest of us.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 29 '06 - 05:36PM    #
  38. Steve,

    The vast majority of people in our country go through life without ever once breaking a law that, if caught, would place them in a county jail. These “people” with their own history and experiences and stresses are subject to our “criminal” justice system, have their cases adjudicated in “criminal” courts, and if convicted, they will have a “criminal” record. The “rest of us” use the term criminal – it’s your perspective that is short-sighted.


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 29 '06 - 06:08PM    #
  39. Steve,

    Don’t need to read the book, I saw the movie years ago – “Planet of the Apes”.


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 29 '06 - 07:30PM    #
  40. Steve,

    The vast majority of people in our country go through life without ever once breaking a law that, if caught, would place them in a county jail. These “people” with their own history and experiences and stresses are subject to our “criminal” justice system, have their cases adjudicated in “criminal” courts, and if convicted, they will have a “criminal” record. The “rest of us” use the term criminal – it’s your perspective that is short-sighted.

    —Karen Luck Nov 29, 01:08 PM #

    why put “people” in quotes? Are you inferring you don’t agree they are people?
    I don’t mind the use of the adjective “criminal”. For example, I see relevance in the term “criminal behavior”. I agree use of the noun is rather Dick Tracy…as in, one dimensional.


       —Nancy Jowske    Nov. 30 '06 - 01:26PM    #
  41. You’re right Nancy, the quotes were inappropriately placed. I did not intend to imply they weren’t people, I was trying to use the term that Steve suggested was the current politically correct choice, “people with their own history and experiences and stresses”. I just thought the one word was a more concise description and less likely to result in misinterpretation. Even in my original post, I used “persons who break the law” and “criminal” interchangeably. I don’t think the term criminal describes all the dimensions of any individual at all, it was just the one dimension that was relevent to the current discussion.


       —Karen Luck    Nov. 30 '06 - 01:46PM    #
  42. In 1998, the Michigan Legislature voted to relax the “650 Lifer Law” making it no longer a requirement that persons convicted of crimes involving more than 650 grams of cocaine or heroin be sentenced to prison without the possibility of parole.

    In 2002, three sentencing reform bills were passed that repealed most of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

    A judge who doesn’t mention either of these reforms but states that he is guided by the previous “get-tough” reforms and claims that a higher percentage of offenses warrant jail time now (post#29), could be said to have a “pre-1998” mindset.

    But what if the jail is more of a “post-2002” size? Should the jail be made to fit a judge or should a judge be elected to fit the jail?

    Here’s an insanely democratic concept. The people decide what kind of jail they will have, or if they just want to keep the jail they already have, then they elect judges specifically to fit that jail. The judges will make a vow before they open court that they will strive to carry out the will of the people by making sure the length of the sentences they hand out accommodate the size of the jail for which they were elected.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 30 '06 - 02:51PM    #
  43. Those two laws were far from the only constraints that drove up prison and jail sentences in Michigan. They were only the most extreme manifestation, so extreme that the Legislature actually worked up the gumption to modify them a little.

    The same deep public anger about crime and perceived lax punishment which drove those provisions to be enacted in the first place also drove a lot of other ones, as well as ramping up the sentences for practically every offense.

    I wish it were true that we could speak of a post-2002 era of more moderate sentencing. But that’s not the reality.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 30 '06 - 04:30PM    #
  44. Oop – according to today’s AA News, the County and the Townships haven’t agreed on language to implement the deal they made to avoid layoffs. If they don’t agree by 5:00 today, layoff notices may go out tomorrow.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 30 '06 - 06:00PM    #
  45. Larry, the 2002 legislation repealed almost all of the state’s mandatory minimum drug statutes, giving discretion back to the hands of the judges. Of course, a shift to more moderate sentencing could never happen if the judge declines to use this discretion, preferring instead to follow the “get-tough” reforms. So maybe the move to moderation never happened in Washtenaw if the commissioner’s recollection of the chief judge’s words is any indication.(post#29, 7th paragraph) Throw in a sheriff who also refuses to reduce sentences and one has to wonder how part of the most liberal area of the state moved so far to the right.

    And rather than “deep public anger” I have to say it was the prison-industrial complex that had more to do with the force driving the “tough on crime” legislation. The movement to reform these draconian laws was more “grass roots” than the movement that caused them.


       —Michael Schils    Dec. 1 '06 - 12:20AM    #
  46. Well, the no-layoff deal apparently is back on again.


       —David Cahill    Dec. 1 '06 - 02:51PM    #
  47. The prison-industrial complex is absolutely a reality, but it didn’t bring itself into being. Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved those tough-on-crime ballot proposals in 1978, abolishing or severely restricting parole and bail and time off for good behavior and so on. Washtenaw County voted for those things along with every other county in the state. “Violent crimes” were defined to include ALL drug offenses, even possession, but that bit of dishonesty didn’t even slow the thing down.

    Ironically, the county with the LOWEST percentage in favor (“only” about 66%) was Jackson County, site of the State Prison of Southern Michigan, where perhaps there were an unusual number of voters who knew a thing or two about these issues.

    Can you point to an instance, anywhere in the US, where an increase-prison-time ballot proposal has failed at the polls, or a reduce-mandatory-minimums has passed? I doubt you can.

    That’s what I mean by “deep anger”. It’s not fueled by campaign money from prison industries, rather, it’s the widespread perception that we’re not locking up criminals long enough. And the vast increase in imprisonment has done nothing to sate the political demand for harsher sentences.

    The 2002 Michigan reforms were necessary, sensible, etc., but they never would have passed a referendum.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 1 '06 - 05:42PM    #
  48. That “deep anger” is based in deep fear. If we want to address it, we need to help people see it in themselves and bring it out in the open.


       —Steve Bean    Dec. 1 '06 - 06:06PM    #
  49. Larry, the prison industry leaders, like the Corrections Corporation of American and the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, spend large amounts of money to influence legislation. One of their tools, The policy group American Legislative Exchange Council, brags about helping to enact “Truth In Sentencing” and “Three Strikes” and “Tough on Crime” laws in many states. ALEC puts out “model” legislation nationwide, guaranteed to result in many more prisoners doing much more time. This of course all translates into PROFIT.

    With your model of cause and effect, both CCA and Wackenhut are wasting their money here in trying to influence policy, because the “deep public anger” of the voters would have caused it all to happen, anyway. I would have to disagree and say that the “tail is wagging the dog” more here, and the process is not nearly as democratic as your post seems to suggest.


       —Michael Schils    Dec. 2 '06 - 06:55PM    #
  50. Larry, upon rereading your post, I realize that I may have interpreted it more broadly than you intended. Your claim that voters have consistently voted to “get tough on crime” is entirely valid. The question of whether these votes were the result of a reasoned assessment of the facts — or borne out of a reflexive fear (Post#48) to what was seen on television — is another matter.


       —Michael Schils    Dec. 3 '06 - 06:04PM    #
  51. Don’t need to read the book, I saw the movie years ago – “Planet of the Apes”.

    Karen, your taxation post on the other thread reminded me of this comment. I don’t know if you were trying to imply that you knew something about the book or what. Quinn’s writings are anything but “PC”. In fact they’re quite ‘conservative’, in the true sense. Take a chance.


       —Steve Bean    Dec. 4 '06 - 05:08PM    #