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Published: Wednesday, 9/30/2009

Pigheadedness in Lansing

IT'S BAD enough that Michigan is facing its biggest financial crisis in modern history with tonight's deadline to erase a $2.8 billion budget deficit. But an almost unbelievable act of stubbornness on the part of Senate Majority Leader Alan Cropsey (R., DeWitt) threatens to increase the shortfall by as much as $50 million for no sane reason at all.

The issue is a so-called prison "boot camp" for young offenders near Chelsea, just west of Ann Arbor. The camp, which officials call SAI, for Special Alternative Incarceration program, currently has about 400 inmates, which the cash-strapped Department of Corrections says saves significant bed space. But Senator Cropsey has long been an adamant foe of the boot camp approach, which he says doesn't work.

Statistics are mixed for the SAI camp, though a state study concluded that it is "at least as effective as other release methods," in preventing inmates from returning to jail. Yet the program is due to end with the close of the fiscal year, and if the camp's charter is not renewed, it will be closed and the inmates transferred to other prisons. That would be financially disastrous, leading to $40 million or more in new prison costs, since it would mean the state would be unable to close another prison now slated for shuttering, because of the need for beds for the SAI inmates.

The state House has passed legislation keeping Chelsea open, but so far, Mr. Cropsey continues to stubbornly block it in the Senate. Today's cash-strapped state government can no longer afford such silliness.

If Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop are truly serious about stopping wasteful government spending and showing they can lead, they will take this matter out of this ideologue's hands and take the sensible step of voting to keep the boot camp open.

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