Paroled Prisoner Raises New Doubts on Governor's Budget

By: Beth Shayne Email
By: Beth Shayne Email

Monday, prosecutors in Jackson County charged the man they say is responsible for a weekend bank robbery in Jackson--just ten days after he was released from prison.

Prosecutors say Thomas Pryor held up the Citizens Bank on E. Michigan Avenue Saturday morning. Pryor had just been paroled from prison ten days earlier for serving time for another robbery.

His rap sheet spans two counties and includes seven arrests. Thomas Pryor's most recent arrest, for an alleged bank robbery this weekend, Sheriff Dan Heyns says, shouldn't surprise anyone who knows the stats.

In Michigan, about 48% of former inmates end up back in prison within two years. It's why Heyns says, letting them out after they've served just their minimum sentence as the governor proposes just means more work for local law enforcement and jails.

"Many of my fellow sheriff's don't have bed space to put these new offenders in," Heyn says.

The governor's plan would not have changed anything about the Pryor case.
Department of Corrections spokesperson Russ Marlan explains it would apply only to prisoners who could have avoided prison altogether. They fall in a gray area in the sentencing requirements the state calls "straddle cells." Pryor was not one of them. The governor's plan would only apply to those in that group who didn't commit sex or violent crimes.

"We've never professed we can take a criminal and turn them into a law abiding citizen by just incarcerated them for a number of years," Marlan says. A better solution, he believes, is helping them after they've been let out.

The governor's new budget increases funding for re-entry programs already in use from $12 to $20 million.

"We're seeing double digit improvement in our recidivism rate so we're gonna focus funding and efforts on that," Marlan says.

Heyns simply points back to Pryor as an example of a man who started his criminal career with non-violent offenses. The prison system, he says, should have more money, not less.

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