Public officials in Michigan have struggled for 10 years to get a handle on corrections spending. From 1998-2008, state funded spending on corrections went up almost 60% from $1.3 billion to $2 billion. As unemployment rates increased and state revenues declined, state spending on corrections grew considerably. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education, from 1979 to 2013 Michigan increased spending on schools by 18%. During that same time period, the state increased spending on corrections by 219%. Spending on corrections is such a large share of the state budget that in 2008, one in three state employees worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Even as large sums of taxpayer money were being pumped in to the system and incarceration rates were steadily rising, violent crime rates in Michigan remained high. From 2000-2007, the state’s violent crime rate, the highest in the Great Lakes regions, dropped only by around 3%, while the national rate decreased nearly 8%.
The catalyst for these efforts in the state was the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative (MPRI). Launched in 2003, MPRI expanded statewide in 2008 and was designed is to equip every released offender with tools to succeed in the community. Post-2007 preliminary figures from the Michigan Department of Corrections showed that parolees released through the MPRI were returning to prison 33% less frequently than similar offenders who do not participate in the program. This reduction in revocations to prison opened up bed space, reduced operating costs, and allowed for Michigan to truly begin down the path towards comprehensive criminal justice reform.
After realizing the success of MPRI, in 2009 public officials initiated bipartisan efforts that helped close 8 prisons, despite protests from corrections union guards. In doing so, the legislature saved Michigan taxpayers $120 million. Michigan has reduced its prison population and the number of corrections facilities operated by the state, using the savings to create and better utilize community supervision and recidivism reducing programs. These efforts have proven to successfully hold the offenders accountable while ultimately providing them with the proper help they need to become successful citizens.
Earlier in 2017, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bipartisan package of bills into law to further reform to the state's criminal justice system. The package of 18 bills was spearheaded by Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph), and is aimed at slowing the revolving door of recidivism while modernizing the previously outdated parole and probation policies.
The bills establish a maximum of 30 days' incarceration for parolees who commit technical violations. A Parole Sanction Certainty Program standardizes consequences parolees can expect for violations, and a judge can reduce a defendant's parole term after the defendant has completed half of it. This will allow offenders an opportunity to move through the system faster and allow more resources to be allocated to the offenders who need the most attention.
The legislation also requires the Michigan Department of Corrections to develop rehabilitation plans and provide programming specifically tailored to youth rehabilitation for 18-22 year old offenders. Finally the legislation requires more extensive data collection, reporting and coordination between various state departments to create a greater level of transparency in the system.
Watch as Governor Rick Snyder presented his 2015 Criminal Justice Special Message, focused on changing outcomes and building a safer, stronger state for Michigan's families.
In March 2018, the American Conservative Union Foundation led several right-of-center organizations in a letter to the Michigan Legislature, urging them to crack down on the troublesome asset forfeiture practice. Read the letter below:
For more on Michigan’s criminal justice reform efforts, visit the Governor’s webpage on the issue found here.
For more facts and figures, please view the resource below from the Sentencing Project.