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    A major struggle faced in the state of Michigan that often goes unheard of is the ability to implement a successful program that allows inmates of prisons to reenter society as productive and successful citizens while avoiding their return back to prison. In our state, the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative (MPRI) was established in 2005 in an effort to reduce recidivism by identifying what resources an inmate may need as soon as they are initially incarcerated to stop their criminal activity and integrate them into society. It is the mission of this program, under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), to educate prisoners on how to adjust back into the public sphere by the time their minimum term of imprisonment has been completed. When a prisoner approaches their release date, assistance is provided to them regarding housing, job placement, and health care resources spanning from substance abuse counseling to mental health treatment. To date, the prison population in Michigan is down 15% from its highest level in 2007. Many believe this to be a testament of the success of MPRI in reducing recidivism. However, others claim that the reduction in the prison population could also be attributed to other factors, while MPRI and the Michigan Department of Corrections as a whole is draining more and more money from the state’s budget.

     

    . MDOC has made it one of their main missions to ensure the MPRI program effectively identifies what areas an inmate has to focus on to ensure that they will not return to prison. Not only does this achieve the goal of protecting the public, but it will reduce the cost of housing prisoners if there are less of them to intern. Currently, MDOC has put into place a plan concerning the continued improvement of their educational and re-entry programs that is hoped to be achieved by 2016. Regarding educational initiatives, MDOC aims to partner with more colleges to provide post-secondary schooling options, along with instituting options to offer education on skilled trades. On top of this, the Transition Accountability Plan (TAP) is slated to be improved. TAP is a system that calculated an inmate’s risk of re-offending and guides staff to curb that risk. The programs that are then offered to the inmate must be completed before their release is finalized by a Parole Board. With these improvements, it is believed that MPRI will continue to be successful in reducing recidivism and keeping the state as a whole safer.

     

    Even without these changes, supporters of the Initiative have been touting its success. According to a study on effective reentry programs by the American Bar Association, MPRI has contributed to reducing the prison population in Michigan by 7,500. Also, out of the 22,000 participants in the program, the rate of returning to prison for a new crime is at its lowest number since 1995, and the overall return to prison rate has decreased from one in two to one in three. Furthermore, the overall parole revocation rate is the lowest it’s been since records were started to be kept in 1987. These figures seem to ultimately prove that the Initiative is indeed a success, which would suggest that the budget of the Department of Corrections would be lessened. However, the opposite is true, as the cost of corrections has increased to around $2 billion, with year-by-year increases becoming the norm.

     

    Of that $2 billion, around $56 million is invested into MPRI, as of FY 2011. Though this is just a fraction of the overall budget, oversight is nevertheless necessary to ensure the allotted amount is going to programs that will be successful. According to two separate audits by Michigan’s Office of the Auditor General released in 2012, it was shown that MDOC efforts to oversee the effectiveness of MPRI were lacking. Sound data was not provided to prove that parolees were taking advantage of the programs offered through MPRI upon their release. Because of this, recidivism rates based off of who went through the program fully could not be accurately determined. Along with this, contracts with outside entities to provide services for released inmates were not efficiently disclosed. In one instance, $679,800 was allocated for services that were not even outlined within a contract. With these examples of mismanagement, the actual success of MPRI comes into question because the raw numbers were not derived properly.

     

    Regardless of the question regarding how precisely effective MPRI has been on reducing recidivism, the fact remains that the prison population in Michigan is at an all-time low, and the rate of crime continues to significantly drop. The efforts of MPRI appear to contribute to this trend, as focus is no longer being put on punishment for a crime but rather rehabilitation to ensure that the crime is no longer committed.

     

    References http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/criminal_justice/spip_reentry.authcheckdam.pdf http://michigan.gov/documents/corrections/Corrections_Strategic_Plan_2014-18_456710_7.pdf http://www.michigan.gov/documents/corrections/02-01-15_-_Section_511_481396_7.pdf http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/04/michigan_gets_serious_about_hi.html http://www.ncsl.org/documents/cj/managingcorrectionscosts.pdf https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2012/jul/15/audits-identify-problems-with-michigan-prisoner-reentry-initiative/

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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