Listen to the interview with Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole
ESCANABA – The state of Michigan is dumping released felons in Escanaba and the city of Escanaba wants it stopped.
City Manager Jim O’Toole said they started noticing a trend after Escanaba Public Safety asked a person arrested for shoplifting why he was in Escanaba.
“It was determined there were no ties to Escanaba. Some landlords entered into an agreement with the Department of Corrections and so if there was bed space available in Escanaba the Department of Corrections were sending the people up here,” O’Toole said. “That concerned me greatly.”
The Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative is meant to reintroduce inmates into their own communities. Instead, O’Toole said they are being sent to Escanaba with no ties to the area. He says it is changing the fabric of the community.
“I want to be able to tell my granddaughter when she asks to go down to the park to play basketball, ‘go ahead.’ I want people to walk down the street without fearing things. That’s the town you and I grew up in and we are going to fight and get that back,” O’Toole said.
Members of the Escanaba Council met with State Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba last week about the problem.
O’Toole said it has also brought to light concerns over presumptive parole legislation being discussed in Lansing. The bill, headed back to the state Senate, allows inmates to be released from prison based on minimum sentencing guidelines.
“As I understand it, the state is looking to save some money. Well, good. We should all try to save money. But what I don’t want the state to do is transfer those costs or problems to me,” said O’Toole.
He said the issue has to do with quality of life and public safety on the local level.