Parole Problems?

By: Beth Shayne
By: Beth Shayne

"In my opinion, the system as it's currently operated is broke."

Jackson County prosecutor Hank Zavislak is not mincing words. His experience as a sheriff and a prosecutor has him, essentially, fed up with a parole system he says, too often, puts criminals on the street only to be menaces to society.

Zavislak points first and foremost to Ron Wenman. He was convicted last week for murdering a clerk at the local Walgreens. He was out on parole in the midst of a life of crime.

Louis Mackenzie, he says, just strengthens the point. Zavislak had him charged Thursday with five different robberies. He was also out on parole.

Zavislak says it is a budget issue rooted in at the capitol. He says the system drives prisoners out and thereby threatens public safety.

The statistics are staggering. 48 percent of Michigan's prisoners end up back in jail within two years.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Russ Marlan says the system is imperfect, not broken. He points to a re-entry program piloted right now in eight communities. He says they're making headway everyday by helping prisoners on the outside.

That's an initiative, by the way, he says Jackson County's prosecutor has ignored.

"If he's truly interested in reducing parolee crime, he should show up and attend these meetings."

Zavislak says he has his eye on re-entry, not just because it may work, but because it may not.

"[I'm watching] so that it doesn't become another excuse to let people out of prison."


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