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May 28, 1997 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1997-05-28

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, May 28, 1997
Edited and managed by ERIN MARSH JACK SCHILLACI
students at the + + , Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
University of Michigan
t i Unless otherwise noted, rrmsr gned editorials refect the opinion of
420 Maynard Street nlJnrit o{ the Daily s editorial buoia^ woer articles. letters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 carioons(0 not tnecessarillretftet the opinion otP The Michiga Dail,

S pending time in prison should be a
sobering experience for criminals -
yet some still return to a life of crime after
they serve their sentences. Last
Wednesday, the Washtenaw County sher-
iff's department presented a program to
the county commissioners that would cre-
ate educational programs in the county's
correctional facility. The programs would
offer prisoners educational opportunities
while potentially decreasing the number of
convicts. Correctional facilities should
work to rehabilitate inmates and return
them to society - the new program helps
the facility provide an environment where
inmates can achieve their potential. The
program should be put into use immedi-
A $917,327 grant from the U.S.
Department of Education is necessary to
start the program. While the cost appears
significant, the program may offer long-
term financial benefits to taxpayers. The
150 inmates who currently reside in the
county's prison cost $3 million dollars a

Educational detention
Program offers inmates an education

year to house. The program would help
rehabiltate inmates and could decrease the
number of inmates returning to prison for
repeat crimes, thus cutting costs. The
department should approve the grant and
use the program as a model for other cor-
rectional facilities.
Correctional facilities should work to
rehabilitate and prepare inmates for life
after they serve their sentence. Every
inmate deserves a chance to rehabilitate -
inadequate opportunities to change detract
from that. To better teach criminals to be
productive members of society, facilities
should give inmates educational tools nec-
essary to live without reverting to criminal
behavior. To "make it" in the world outside
prison walls, inmates need an education
and skills necessary to find a job - or

face falling into the cycle of repeat offend-
The classes offered under the program
would offer help to inmates at all levels of
education. Ann Arbor Public Schools
would offer a GED program. Washtenaw
Community College would hold vocation-
al training classes to teach office and com-
puter skills, among others. Child and
Family Services would train inmates to
become nursing assistants. The breadth of
educational programs offers a large-scale
solution and promises to allow all inmates
an equal opportunity to improve them-
After completion of the training, the
program would place participants at local
businesses for on-the-job training. The
program offers inmates hands-on work

experience, and businesses a trained work-
force - a situation beneficial to all con-
cerned. After being released from prison,
the program should also offer job place-
ment to ensure that participants' new train-
ing is fully utilized.
Education plays an important role in
being able to support oneself. It can also
help criminals turn their lives around and
help themselves after they serve their sen-
tences. The county's new program would
offer inmates educational opportunities
that could help them improve their lives
while decreasing prison populations and
costs. The program is a model for other
correctional facilities to follow as it works
to achieve the goal of rehabilitation I
eliminate repeat criminal offenders - t e
sheriff's department deserves commenda-
tion for the creation of such an effective
program. It behooves the commisioners to
approve the program as it could help
reduce crime, provide educational oppor-
tunities to inmates and could save taxpay-
ers money in the long run.

Testing patience
State should revamp HPSE to help students
T o trust Michigan school districts or cient" score will still get endorsements on
not to trust them; should that be the their transcripts and diplomas, yet the
question? The state abolished any ques- mid-grade "novice" label will not be used.
tions of the quality of education in various Currently, all scores are printed in stu-
districts by implementing the High School dents' transcripts, estimating their future
Proficiency Exam in February 1996. performance abilities on the results of one
Controversy has surrounded the exam high-school test - a bad propisition that
from its concetption. The state is finally fails to account for possible improvement
taking steps that acknowledge the prob- in students' future.
lems, yet they continue to ignore the ill The moratorium will grant the state
reflection standardized tests have on a stu- legislature time to review problems and
dent's ability. questions raised by those affected by the
Students were the first to recognize HSPE. While buying time, the state needs
the test's poor construction. The HSPE is to look at the reasoning for the use and
an intense 11-hour testing marathon. accuracy of the HSPE. The results of the
With 181 school days per year, the large HSPE may give parents a false view of the
time block takes away from students' quality of individual school districts -
class time. It also proved to be a drastic potentially causing them to remove their
failure. With 100,000 high-school children from districts that receive low
juniors taking the first HSPE in a trial scores. It also creates a system by which to
run, only one-third were declared "profi- judge each institution; exam performance
cient" in writing and science, 40 percent 4 is not an accurate measure of districts'
in reading and 50 percent in math. These success.
were not "novice" students as the test Changes are necessary to ensure all
reported - many were college bound students have a fair shot at achieving pro-
with high GPAs and extensive extracur- ficiency in the state's eyes. As the HSPE
ricular involvement. Yet in accordance stands, students who are not college-
with the test, they were not deemed wor- bound are not often endorsed by the state.
thy of receiving a state-endorsed diplo- This elitism is just one of the problems
ma. that the state must address during the
Parents were the next to acknowledge moratorium.
HPSE's faultiness. A clause in the legisla- Standardized tests do not currently
tion that established the test allows parents offer any conclusive information about
to exempt their children from the exam. In the academic potential of students. If
voicing concerns that the HSPE is a "high- only one-third of students achieved a
risk, low-yield" test, students and their "proficient" rating in writing and science
parents began following a trend against during, the HPSE's trial run, there is an
standardized testing. obvious lack of communication and
After a year and a half of criticism, the understanding between districts and the
state House passed a one-year moratorium state. The state must bridge the gap andj
on labeling students "novice" last seriously reconsider the value and format
Thursday. Students who earned a "profi- of the HSPE.

Law creates disproportionate punishment
A ccording to Birmingham- lawyer offense. Without reform of the law, they
Martin Rieser, Michigan's so-called will remain in prison for the rest of their
"650 lifer-law" is the "worst law in the natural lives. By way of comparison,
country." Armed with that conviction, felons convicted of violent crimes spend
Rieser came to Ann Arbor last week, urg- an average of less than 10 years in prison.
ing Washtenaw County lawyers to actively People arrested and charged with posse-
support modification of the law. The law sion of 500 to 5,000 grams under fed< l
creates a punishment scheme that punish- drug laws do not face the harsh punish-
es drug offenders more harshly than it ments the state inflicts.
does those convicted of violent crimes - The state's draconian drug laws do not
the state should change it to alleviate the end with the law. As a whole, the state has
bias. by far the toughest penalties in the nation
The law came into existence in 1978, on drug usage and possession - the 650-
just as crack cocaine appeared in the nation. gram limit is far less than amounts requir-
Legislators, alarmed by a rise in drug prob- ing mandatory life-without-parole sen-
lems, wanted to appear tough on crime. In tences in other states. Furthermor ,
response, they enacted a statute calling for Michigan's mandatory sentences for d%
life sentences without parole for anyone possession and distributions also create
caught in possession of 650 grams - expensive logistical problems in the form
approximately 1.5 pounds - or more of of prison space shortages. As more drug
cocaine or heroin. penalties are handed down, whether life
The law was intended to target kingpins sentences or shorter terms, prison space is
and major drug distributors - the crimi- increasingly at a premium. In every short-
nals directing the flow of drugs into age, some prisoners - usually those near-
Michigan's cities and neighborhoods. The ing parole or the end of their sentences -
law also holds addicts with no intent to find themselves released early. Due to the
distribute their drugs to the same punish- law's mandatory life sentence, the prison-
ments as dealers. Legislators should offer ers released are often those convited of 9-
treatment programs to help low-level users lent crimes.
get over their addiction rather than simply The state's mandatory drug-sentencing
locking them up and throwing away the laws need reform - especially the "650
keys. The greatest objection to the law lifer-law." While a life sentence is warrant-
stems from this absolute nature - judges ed for true drug kingpins and repeat, incor-
have no leeway to consider individual rigible offenders, it should not remain the
cases as they do with other types of crimes mandatory, across-the-board sentence for
- they are required to assign a life sen- possession of 650 grams of cocaine.
tence. As a result, the state's legal system Judges and prosecutors must be given lee-
is handcuffed to a disturbing pattern of way to consider the facts of each case d
lopsided justice. the circumstances surrounding it. 1Mg
A disproportionate percentage of pris- felons should not be forced to pay for one
oners convicted under the law are given mistake with their entire lives while violent
life sentences despite it being their first criminals walk free within a few short

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