New Sentencing Guidelines Could Force Jail Inmate Release

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As of Friday morning, every bunk in the Jackson County jail is filled.

The downtown facility has six more inmates than it's supposed to hold. A facility in Blackman Township has only few extra beds.

Jackson County Undersheriff Thomas Finco is worried that problem could get worse.

"I don't know what we're going to do with the extra people," Finco said.

Those extra inmates are what Finco predicts will be the result of a plan from Governor Jennifer Granholm.

"Our efforts to keep Michigan competitive are threatened by rising costs in our Department of Corrections," the governor said during her State of the State address.

Granholm wants to change the state's sentencing guidelines. They're the rules that dictate where a criminal will serve time and for how long.

It's a move to save money.

The more stringent sentencing guidelines have cost the state $ 1 billion, according to the governor's office. And the move would move closer toward bringing the state's incarceration rate in line with its neighbors.

But a move that helps the state could harm counties, according to Finco.

"The outcome is going to be a shifting of burden from state prisons to our county jail," he said.

If his predctions prove accurate, Ingham County could suffer even more. The jail in Mason is so crowded that the county regularly releases inmates just to free up space for those coming in.

Overcrowding might not be the only issue. The Jackson County undersheriff says extra inmates could mean an extra financial burden on the county.

"You're shifting the burden back to locals and it's costing the citizens of Jackson County a significant amount of money to house these prisoners that would have before gone into the state prison system," Finco said.

That shift comes as the state plans to release some prisoners.

Both steps are putting the governor at odds with some in law enforcement as she moves to close billions in budget deficits over the next few years.

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