Michigan policymakers have struggled for the last decade to get a handle on corrections spending in the midst of a difficult economic climate. As unemployment rates increased and state revenues declined, state spending on corrections grew considerably. Between FY1998 and FY2008, state general fund spending on corrections increased 57 percent from $1.26 billion to $1.99 billion and by FY2007, accounted for 22.6 percent of state general fund expenditures. Spending on corrections is such a large share of the state budget, that now, one in three state employees works for the Michigan Department of Corrections. Although the state consolidated the number of correctional facilities it operates in recent years, savings from corrections were difficult to generate in the overall budget.
Despite this significant investment of resources in the correction system, violent crime rates in Michigan remain high. The state’s violent crime rate, the highest in the Great Lakes regions, remained unchanged between 2000 and 2007, while the national rate experienced an 8 percent decline. Further compounding this stagnation, diminishing resources for local law enforcement agencies and a backlog at the state crime lab, exacerbated a low certainty of apprehension for people who commit violent crimes and a delay in criminal investigations, respectively.
As states across the country search for savings to close gaps in their budgets, Michigan policymakers decided that rather than continue to accept continued increases in spending year after year, policymakers sought data on what outcomes the system was producing and applied a data-driven strategy called justice reinvestment. The Governor and legislative leaders requested intensive technical assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center (“Justice Center”) to develop analyses of the prison population, design strategies to reduce recidivism and victimization, and generate options to reduce spending on corrections. A bipartisan, bicameral, and inter-branch Justice Reinvestment Working Group was also established to guide the Justice Center’s work in the state. At the request of the Working Group, the Justice Center is consulting with key local government officials and community-based organizations to inform the policy options considered by state policymakers.
- Returning to Work After Prison: Final Results from the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration
- Work After Prison: One-Year Findings from the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration
- Reentry and the Economic Crisis: An Examination of Four States And Their Budget Efforts
- Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States
- Michigan Research Briefs: The Prison Population and Corrections Expenditures