LANSING -( AP )- More than 200 prison inmates will be released early starting next week under a new law that eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

The law takes effect Saturday and by October, some 700 people will be eligible for parole under the new guidelines. Forty of the 258 first-time drug offenders already granted parole under the new law will leave prison on March 6, said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

State Rep. Bill McConico, a Detroit Democrat who sponsored the bill that was signed late last year by then-Gov. John Engler, said families affected by the strict drug law will have reason to celebrate next week.

"We're going to have the opportunity for people and families to be reunited who were torn apart by a draconian sentence structure," McConico said Wednesday.

Under the current law, someone possessing 50 to 224 grams of drugs in Michigan must be sentenced to at least 10 years and up to 20 years in prison. The new law eliminates the 10-year minimum, allowing the judge to sentence an offender for any time up to 20 years.

Among those set to be released under the law is Karen Shook, a Waterford bank teller sentenced to at least 20 years in prison in 1993 for setting up a drug deal. She is scheduled to be released on April 28 -- 10 years before her original release date, Marlan said.

The new law takes effect as the prison population gets dangerously close to its 50,000 capacity and the state faces a $1.7-billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year. By the Associated Press

Pubdate: Thu, 27 Feb 2003
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2003 Detroit Free Press