AMERICA releases 700,000 prisoners a year. Their prospects are bleak. Three-quarters drink too much or take drugs. One in six has mental-health problems. Most struggle to find a job or a place to stay. Within three years, two-thirds of them are back in prison.
National Reentry Resource Center
Prison education programs have long been a matter of intense public debate; the cost of providing an education to those who have broken society’s laws is a lightning-rod in and of itself.
The Lansing State Journal by Kathleen Gray His name is Michael Jardine and he hates to admit it, but he’s a felon. Popped for a misdemeanor weapons violation in 2001 and a felony larceny in a building in 2004 — […]
Deseret News by Eric Schulzke That education plays a key role in keeping children and adults out of trouble is widely understood, and yet there has been surprisingly little effort to figure out the role education plays in reforming prisoners. […]
With one of the Midwest’s largest prison populations and costs that were spiraling out of control, Michigan was a prime candidate for corrections reform in 2008. So it was both prudent and visionary for then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Michigan Department of Corrections Director Pat Caruso to start releasing more offenders to communities where they might build productive lives.
Like the rest of the nation, Michigan has long been grappling with a skyrocketing prison population and dwindling resources. State leaders thought they had found the answer in 2005 with the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (MPRI), a plan for better supervising offenders in the community while shaving money from the department’s $2-billion budget.
After closing three-quarters of Michigan’s 16 state psychiatric hospitals by 2003, the state put the task of caring for the mentally ill firmly — and appropriately — on the backs of Community Mental Health agencies. With hospital stays costing more than $800 a day, treating mental illness in the community is less expensive, more humane and in many cases more effective than hospital care, especially with advances in psychotropic medications and therapy.
From California to New York, Texas to Michigan, a record number of convicted criminals are either being released from cells or serving time in community-based programs as states, under pressure to cut costs, adopt new philosophies on how to handle nonviolent offenders and many inmates incarcerated in the 1970s and ’80s near the end of their terms. In some cases, lawsuits designed to reduce overcrowding are forcing authorities to open prison doors as well. The result is an unprecedented test – of authorities’ ability to monitor the newly released prisoners, of social service groups’ capacity to help them forge new lives, of the inmates’ willingness to start over, of communities’ tolerance to let them do so.
Despite the rants of some prosecutors and several fixable flaws, Michigan’s Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative is doing what it’s supposed to do: reduce recidivism, and therefore the state’s prison population, by helping parolees find jobs, housing, transportation, treatment and other services. A report released this month by the state’s Office of the Auditor General found that parolees enrolled in MPRI were significantly less likely to return to prison, where they each cost taxpayers roughly $35,000 a year.
In early 2010, in an effort to ease the burden of the state’s prison system, Gov. Ed Rendell announced that Pennsylvania would contract with Michigan and Virginia to move 2,000 low-risk inmates to facilities in those states. Over the ensuing months, Pennsylvania sent millions of dollars out of state, at the same time taking criticism from advocacy groups that such a move interfered with family visitation, which in turn, interferes with successful reintegration into the community.