Proos: Corrections 2012 budget cuts $70.8 million

LANSING – The legislative conference committee on the Department of Corrections budget approved a 2012 budget Tuesday that protects public safety while cutting spending by more than $70 million, said Sen. John Proos, chair of the committee.

“Public safety is always job number one.  This agreement will keep dangerous criminals off the street and also save taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “We have worked hard to eliminate wasteful spending and improve efficiencies in the department to ensure taxpayers are getting the most for their dollar.  In doing so, this budget will protect our communities and help solve the state’s budget deficit at the same time.”

The conference report for Senate Bill 173 would spend a total of $1.936 billion in Fiscal Year 2012, a reduction of more than $70.8 million from the current 2011 budget.  The plan would achieve most of the savings through reforms, including saving $31.3 million by competitively bidding the housing of 1,750 prisoners.

“Michigan spends 94 dollars on each prisoner per day, while the average Great Lakes state spends about 75 dollars,” Proos said.  “This budget is a step toward bringing Michigan’s costs in line with surrounding states. Opening up areas in the department for competitive bids – and allowing the state to bid for the services – will help drive down costs.”

Proos added: “Public-private partnerships and efficiency incentives will help save $55 million. These initiatives include saving $3.5 million by partnering with our counties to house some state prisoners and reducing administrative staff to save $6 million.”

SB 173 includes a major policy initiative by transferring $1 million to the Judiciary for a new “swift-and-sure” pilot program in cooperation with the state’s drug courts.  “Swift-and-sure” is a program of sanctions resulting in jail time for certain probation violations, which has been shown to increase public safety in a more cost-effective manner.

“This program is based on a successful Hawaiian model that resulted in an 80 percent reduction in missed and ‘dirty’ drug tests,” Proos said. “It is a proactive approach to reducing costs now and in the future. Reducing Corrections costs will enable us to focus state funding on other priorities, like higher education and economic development.”

The conference committee report has been sent to full Senate for consideration.