In February, Governor Rick Snyder introduced the Executive Budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Overall, the Department of Corrections received a slight increase for FY 2012 and 4.3 percent increase for 2013. Included in the budget were several viable options for the state to save money, including privatizing prison services, reducing the number of lieutenant positions in prisons across the state as well as putting a larger emphasis on the state's prisoner reentry initiative, better known as The Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI). Currently there are 8,000 inmates who have served their minimum sentences but remain incarcerated. This number is particularly significant because of the comparative costs of paroles vs. prisoners; the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) estimates that the average cost per parolee enrolled in MPRI is around $2,000 compared to the estimated $34,000 it costs to house a prisoner. Under these suggestions the Governor estimates that the state could over 50 million dollars, as well as allow for the closure of the Muskegon Correctional Facility in June. While Corrections spending has slightly increased year after year, the state has received a significant amount of credit for curbing its costs and its overall prison population.
In April of 2010, the Pew Research Center, a D.C. based think tank, released a national report detailing the decline in state prison populations, the first decline the country has seen in 38 years. Overall the state of Michigan ranked second in population decline from 2009-2010 with a reduction of 6.3 percent representing more than 300 prisoners. Today the state's 35 facilities hold around 44,000 prisoners, a far cry from 2007 when the state saw its prison population ballooned to an all-time high of 51,544. At that time, Michigan operated the nation's fifth largest prison system consisting of 42 prisons and eight minimum-security camps costing taxpayers of $5 million dollars per day. The report released by the Pew Research Center credits the state's efforts to reduce the number of inmates who serve more than 100 percent of their minimum sentence, decreasing parole revocation rates and enhanced reentry planning and supervision through the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI).
Prior to the statewide launch of MPRI, it was expected that within two years' time one out of every two prisoners would return to prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization that documents the impact of mass incarceration on individuals, communities and the national welfare, there are a multitude of elements in play contributing to recidivism. The largest factors are typically employment, health care and housing. Employment can especially be difficult simply because of the stigma that exists with the formerly incarcerated; on top of the fact that most paroled prisoners have a significant disadvantage in terms of education. "The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry," a report published in 2003 by Peter Wagner examines the level of education in U.S. Prisons. According to the report, 19 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population is completely illiterate, compared to 4 percent of the general public. The report also accounts for "functional illiteracy," which assess a persons ability to manage daily living and employment tasks that require skills beyond a basic level. According to the report, 21 percent of the U.S. Adult population is functionally illiterate, compared to 40 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population. Available housing for recently released prisoners has a significant impact on recidivism. In the 2004 report "Homeless Shelter Use and Reincarceration Following Prison Release," Stephen Metraux and Dennis Culhane examine the relationship between shelter use and reincarceration among a group of 48,424 prisoners released from New York state prisons to New York City from 1995-1998. The study found that 11.4 percent of the group entered into a homeless shelter and 32.8 percent of the group returned to prison. Metraux and Culhane conclude that the findings indicate a significant need for enhanced housing and related services for successful reintegration.
In an attempt to address recidivism rates, The State of Michigan began the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative in 2005 across eight pilot sites and with about seven hundred paroles. The program attempts to address many of the deterrents that prisoners may face when reentering into communities across the state. According a progress report released by MPRI this year, Prisoners should are released earlier in the week, as opposed to the previous practice of releasing prisoners on Fridays, to prevent an unnecessary extended period of time between release and meeting with their parole agents. Originally the program was built on two core phases: "Going Home" and "Staying Home". The first phase of the program begins two months before prisoners' expected release when they are transferred to an ‘in-reach' center that is closer to the community to which they will return. The inmate participants meet with community transition teams to assess the possible needs one might have when exiting prison, such as housing, substance abuse treatment and mental health services to simply finding a ride home upon release. Community transition teams also place a high priority on developing a plan for employment, helping to address the prisoners' strengths and weaknesses as well as explaining their incarceration. The second phase of the program, ‘Staying Home,' integrates portions of the previous step with a larger emphasis on community. Local sites run job clubs that offer resume workshops as well as provide leads on possible employment. This phase continues support to parolees in acquiring housing and mental health services. These are key in terms of providing parolees with the tools to succeed upon their reentry. In 2009, the program launched another phase, ‘Getting Ready.' To prepare for this phase of the program, the state trained over 3,500 employees.
This phase begins at the reception center upon entering prison, and includes a complete analysis of the prisoners' strengths, needs and their overall risk factor. From there, an accountability plan is developed to help determine services the prisoner will need to prepare for life after prison, goals and milestones are also established, not only giving the Parole Board an opportunity to look at the progress a prisoner may have made during their incarceration, but also giving the prisoner a road-map in terms of what they need to do to renter society. In 2007, the program launched statewide and now has eighteen sites throughout Michigan with more than 8,000 parolees enrolled.
Metraux, Stephen, and Dennis Culhane. "Homeless Shelter Use And Reincarceration Following Prison Release ." Criminology & Public Policy . 3.2 (2004): 139-160. Print.
Wagner, Peter. The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry . 1st ed., . The Prison Policy Initiative , 2004. Print.