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Michigan capital insiders believe that the state’s criminal justice system should be more about problem solving and rehabilitation and less about crime and punishment, a new Michigan State University report says.

High-ranking policymakers working in capital positions believe too many people are sent to prisons, and the costs of sending wrongdoers to prison and keeping them there are too high, the report released Friday said.

Results were detailed in an analysis of answers to the Michigan Policy Insiders Panel, an online survey of high-ranking members of state government agencies, the Michigan Legislature, legislative assistants, association and corporation lobbyists, public relations professionals and journalists.

Sheryl Kubiak, MSU professor of social work and a member of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Policy Commission, and Dasha Shamrova, an MSU School of Social Work doctoral candidate, authored the report.

The report can be seen here. MPIP is an initiative of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, specializing in public policy, political leadership and survey research. The criminal justice questions were in the field from Sept. 14, 2016 to Oct. 2, 2016.

Radio journalist Dave Akerly of WILS 1320 interviewed Kubiak on this first faculty report published from MPIP results. Listen to the interview at this link:

Among their views, policy insiders agreed:

  • Prosecutors should be solving neighborhood problems rather than pursuing convictions and prison sentences.

  • Law enforcement spending is adequate, but the state spends too much on prisons and too many people are sent to prison.

  • People who commit crimes should be rehabilitated rather than punished.

Even those who had been a crime victim in the past five agrees favored rehabilitation over punishment, the report indicated. Men and women, white and minority groups were equally likely to be crime victims among the policy insiders.

“Being a recent victim of crime does not appear to influence the opinions of the respondents about the rehabilitative need of the individuals who committed crimes,” Kubiak and Shamrova concluded.

The greatest split in opinions about criminal punishment and rehabilitation were between the genders, members of the two major political parties and the generations.

“Males were more likely to endorse punishment as opposed to females,” the report said. Republicans were more likely to support punishment than Democrats. Those between 46 and 65 years of age were more likely to favor punishment over rehabilitation when compared to all other age groups.

Nearly 3,000 people were invited to participate in the emailed survey, with 786 reviewing the survey. About 68 percent completed the survey and agreed to serve on the panel. Panel participants are asked about state policy on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Identities are kept confidential.

A total of 415 policy insiders answered criminal justice questions. Of those, about 65 percent were men. Republicans and Democrats were equally divided. Just less than 30 percent called themselves political Independents.

Nearly a third had worked in their jobs for more than 20 years. Fewer, about 19 percent, had worked in their current posts fewer than five years. Their average age was 51.

Besides MPIP, IPPSR is the home of the Michigan Political Leadership Program, the Office for Survey Research, the State of the State Survey, Michigan Policy Wonk Blog and Correlates of State Policy.

IPPSR and the College of Social Work are units of MSU College of Social Science.