Michigan's prison system has undergone a culture change from locking up law breakers for as long as possible to being more selective about whom to put behind bars, state Corrections Director Patricia Caruso told officials at a prisoner re-entry conference Tuesday.Good point about requiring a shift in culture at corrections agencies to focus on reentry, and I especially like the sound bite, "Get out and stay out."
The state closed 10 prisons last year and has curbed its inmate population from 51,500 to 45,000 since 2007, Caruso said. The number of women prisoners has been cut by 30 percent. That reverses a build-up trend that lasted a couple of decades.
"We went from a small prison system, a medium system, to a huge prison system because we could," Caruso said. She added there was "no push-back" because communities wanted the jobs that prisons provided and others "didn't have the political will to stop us."
The two-day conference at the Lansing Center is bringing together government, businesses, social services and faith-based groups that deal with integrating released felons back into society. The Corrections Department has only recently figured out it is part of the state's job to partner with these groups to make prisoner re-entry successful, Caruso said. The department has stepped up a program intended to keep released felons from committing new crimes.
"If we are not focused on get out and stay out, what are we here for?" she asked.
As I write this, Texas prisons release about as many inmates every year as they take in - more than 72,000 statewide - and the largest jurisdictions actually get back more people from TDCJ than they send. If something hasn't occurred to change their behavior while they're inside, the whole project comes to look pretty pointless beyond the marginal benefits of temporary incapacitation.