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Michigan Governor Grants Commutations at Record Rate

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By Kamika Dunlap on February 08, 2010 11:50 AM

Many Michigan prisoners may be glad to have their sentences commuted, but some victims' families feel just the opposite.

They are unhappy that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is granting commutations at a record rate. She has freed 124 prisoners in the last two years -- including killers -- and is on pace to commute more sentences.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Gov. Jennifer Granholm insists that most of the freed prisoners pose no threat to the safety. But this has left some victims' families disappointed that the people who killed their loved ones will not die in prison.

In addition, many worry that the governor cannot be sure that the state's freed killers will not kill again.

In criminal law, commutation typically is the modification or reduction of a punishment.

Since Granholm has been in office, many convicted of violent crimes have been freed including at least 38 in prison for murder.

Gov. Granholm, a former federal prosecutor and attorney general, stepped up her issuance of commutations after being re-elected in 2006. Most commutations were for medical reasons and the financial burden on state taxpayers. When prisoners are released they are usually picked up on Medicaid, covered largely by federal dollars.

Here are some of the factors Gov. Jennifer Granholm considers before deciding to commute the sentence of a convicted felon:

  • the nature of the crime;
  • the prisoner's age;
  • health;
  • prison record;
  • remorse; and
  • his or her prospects on the outside

To date, none of Gov. Granholm's commutations have committed violent crimes after their release. But she does acknowledge that every potential commutation is unique and potentially tragic.

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