Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Court restores freedom-of-information suit against State Police

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – Bill collectors hear the excuse countless times: “The check’s in the mail.”

But when it comes to rejecting freedom of information requests from the public, government agencies must actually mail the letters.

That’s what the Court of Appeal has ruled in reinstating an Ionia County lawsuit against the State Police by a motorist who was told a videotape of her traffic stop didn’t exist.

The controversy stems from a May 2008 incident when a trooper ticketed Nancy Prins’ passenger for failing to wear a seat belt in Boston Township. Prins filed a freedom of information request for the videotape of the traffic stop.

The State Police denied her request, saying that “any in-car video that may have existed is no longer available. Only kept 30 days and reused.”

But when the passenger appeared in court to contest the ticket, however, the prosecutor presented the videotape that the State Police had claimed no longer existed as evidence.

Prins then sued the State Police for violating the freedom of information law.

State law requires public bodies to provide a “full explanation of the reasons for the denial” and to tell requesters about their right to appeal or sue, according to the Attorney General’s office. That requirement includes “notification of the right to receive attorney fees and collect damages.”

Public agencies that fail to comply with the law face possible liability for compensatory damages, punitive damages of $500 and legal fees.

The law sets a 180-day deadline for lawsuits.

A lower-court judge tossed out Prins’ case, saying she waited too long to sue because she started the case 184 days after the State Police wrote its denial letter.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, saying the 180-day clock didn’t start to run until the letter was actually mailed.

“The Legislature intended that the public body undertake an affirmative step reasonably calculated to bring the denial notice to the attention of the requesting party,” Appeals Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said for the unanimous three-member panel.

The decision sends the case back to Ionia County Circuit Court for further proceedings.

 

 

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Wireless service uncertain at more state parks

By KATHLEEN LOFTUS
Capital News Service

LANSING –A proposal to bring wireless Internet service to state parks to boost tourism appears far from certain.

Agriculture Director Keith Creagh said broadband service can promote agri-tourism to golf courses, fishing docks and state parks, but the head of the state parks division of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) said a pilot program at a limited number of parks proved too expensive.

Creagh said Agriculture and DNRE may try different approaches to enhance agri-tourism and state park use by offering more up-to-date technology and making Michigan more attractive to a variety of campers.

In 2004, the state piloted wireless Internet service at eight of its 97 state parks: East Tawas, Holland, Grand Haven, Ludington, Charles Mears, Mackinac Island, Traverse City and Van Riper, as well as several state harbors, welcome centers and transportation centers.

Internet is still available for a fee at central locations, near concessions and headquarters, at those parks.

The original contract allowed campers free access to Michigan.gov, the official state government website, but browsing other sites costs $7.95 for a 24-hour session, according to the Department of Transportation.

The DNRE said Michigan was the first state to introduce wireless to parks.

Harold Herta, the DRNE chief of parks and recreation resource management, said, “It was an experiment that never really took off. It wasn’t too successful because hotels and coffee shops nearby offered free Internet.”

Herta said the pilot program wasn’t popular because many park-goers can pick up some sort of access from nearby cell towers.

Therefore, they don’t want to pay for an extra service they view as an amenity, he said.

The Internet contract has expired, but parks are still able to provide access.

The Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) would operate the wireless revival or expansion, Herta said.

The possibility of rejuvenating the wireless experiment raises questions beyond money, compatibility and visitor demand.

Herta pointed to complaints and skeptical editorials about the pilot program. Critics contended that Internet use defeats the purpose of a relaxing park vacation.  Questions arose about visitors spending time on iPads and laptops to watch Netflix, instead of hiking trails and appreciating wildlife.

On the flip side, Herta said campers enjoyed the fact that they could enhance their park experience, make reservations on their computers and phones, keep up with e-mails and receive weather updates.

Herta said it was too expensive because too few campers took advantage of the Internet.

If the state tried wireless again, it would need to be free for campers he said.

Gail Vander Stoep, a tourism expert at Michigan State University, said, “It’s a complex issue because wireless is ubiquitous– an expected kind of service– but others argue part of the reason why people use state parks is for reflection, rejuvenation and to get away from those kinds of regular demands.”

In addition, Vander Stoep said there are serious practical issues.

“Some parks are in more rural places and others are remote.  Some parks are more natural and primitive, and others are near urban recreational areas for quick-in-quick-out experiences.”

There are logistical challenges, and consistency may be challenging, she said.

Kurt Weiss, the Technology, Management and Budget public information officer, said the rejuvenation is in the early stages, since his department has not been contacted about possible expansion.

Jennifer Holton, Department of Agriculture public information officer, said if departments partner to develop a holistic approach in agri-tourism, they can align opportunities and enhance state parks.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

Filed under: State Agencies

New media connect state government, the public

By SARA QAMAR
Capital News Service

LANSING – State agencies are using social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube as a new method of outreach.

For example, the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) hopes the public will turn to them for everything from cherry recipes to warnings about food-borne illnesses.

MDA has posted links to recipes in honor of National Cherry Month, undiscovered wine regions and a new interactive website for the Michigan Beef Industry Commission.

Its Twitter, Facebook and Youtube pages — the three forms of new media approved by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget — are coordinated through MDA’s office of communication.

“It is a good way for us to talk to young farmers and people who are trying to start an agricultural business,” Jennifer Holton, the department’s public information officer, said.

Twitter enables MDA to communicate urgent messages about food-borne illnesses, such as last summer’s salmonella outbreak, faster than before, she said.

Twitter makes it easy to promptly inform people who may be affected, Holton said. “Our ability to post about recalls or food-borne illnesses is tremendous because it can impact someone’s daily life.”

Other agencies have also used technology to reach out during an emergency, such as the Department of Natural Resources and Environment during the wildfires in northern Michigan last summer and the Department of Community Health during the H1N1 flu virus outbreak.

MDA also uses social media to promote agri-businesses to boost the economy and tourism. One business recently highlighted on its Facebook and Twitter pages is Achatz Handmade Pie Co. in Chesterfield.

MDA posted a link to a video that featured a behind-the-scenes look at Achatz by FOX 2-TV in Detroit.

Achatz has its own Facebook page and blog, and is starting to see the positive uses of social media to raise brand awareness and sales, Achatz project manager Scott Brown said.

“It’s almost instantaneous, like wildfire. It spreads faster than any other form of media. I don’t think there’s anything like it, nor has there ever been,” Brown said.

Achatz Handmade Pie Co. uses a majority of locally-grown ingredients in its products and Brown said the company expects to expand to nine retail stores across the state in the next two years with guidance from MDA.

“I believe social media is a way a small percentage of the population is informed, but I think year by year that will grow rapidly, and that will become the preferred method of information transfer. It’s just a matter of time,” Brown said.

Kurt Weiss, Technology, Management and Budget public information officer, said the department recently issued guidelines so that all agencies know how to keep their look consistent across state government.

Security was one of the major reasons state agencies were leery of social networks for a long time, Weiss said. Facebook is the site where a majority of viruses were transferred to state media pages.

“Government interest in new media is really about improving the way we communicate with businesses and citizens around the state. And we really need to look at the value around doing that.

“The application within state government is different from the campus community and state citizens, so we’re still trying to tweak it and see what the use is,” Weiss said.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Internet service might lure campers to U.P. parks, officials say

By PAIGE LaBARGE
Capital News Service

LANSING—- The state’s effort to improve rural development by boosting tourism could bring broadband services to more Upper Peninsula parks, said Keith Creagh, director of the Department of Agriculture (MDA).

It would be a part of an effort by the Snyder administration to re-invent the agriculture industry by improving rural areas in the state, Creagh said.

“We plan to strategically enhance state parks by introducing broadband in outdoor, rural areas,” Creagh said.

Only one U.P. state park, Van Riper, near Marquette, offers wireless access now.

According to Creagh, no contracts have been signed with wireless providers yet, but he hopes broadband access will attract urban tourists to rural areas.

Jennifer Holton, public information officer at the MDA, said the goal is to improve both state parks and tourism.

“By combining these agriculture and tourism industries, the MDA plans to raise environmental standards and the overall quality of Michigan,” Holton said.

Dave Lorenz, managing director of Travel Michigan, the state’s official tourism promotion agency, said such service would attract campers who rely on the Internet.            “This is a very new idea, but one that would definitely boost tourism and bring people to the more rural areas in the state, “Lorenz said.

Travel Michigan website mentions wireless access as a feature of Von Riper.

According to Lorenz, today’s traveler is younger and uses the Internet daily through cell phones and laptops. With broadband in state parks, they can plan activities and find places to eat.

“With the Internet in these areas, people can look up restaurants in nearby cities, find the weather and directions to outdoor activities,” Lorenz said.

Broadband can help connect rural and city areas, which can attract more tourism to the U.P.’s state parks, Lorenz said.

“For the Upper Peninsula, there is so much public land to explore,” Lorenz said. “Easier access to the Internet in these areas can only bring more tourists who aren’t as familiar with the land.”

Harold Herta, chief of parks and recreation resource management for the Department of Natural Resource and Environment, says the state has tried to introduce broadband to state parks before.

“In 2004, we had an initiative to bring wireless access to outdoor areas, like Van Riper State Park, but people had to pay for the service and it ultimately pushed people away,” Herta said. “Our agency knew we had to change this to compete with the free Internet offered at other tourism venues.”

According to Herta, Wi-Fi is a popular amenity that would boost both tourism and recreational experiences.

“This is a new concept, but hopefully as it grows, people will see how it can bring in local tourists who haven’t experienced the rural parts of Michigan,” Herta said.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Medical care inflates prison costs

By JULIET WANG

Capital News Service

LANSING—Michigan’s most expensive prisoners are those with serious medical problems, said Patricia Caruso, director of the Department of Corrections.

“Health care is a big, big costly issue,” said Caruso. “Keep in mind a number of things, 75 percent of people in our system had some substance abuse.

“Many times you are looking at people who may have not been accessing health care regularly before they came into prison, so you have some of those.

“Combine that with the constitutional right to health care which we have an obligation to provide, and we do provide that. And then everything else that goes with it,” she said.

John Cordell, public information specialist at the Corrections, said the only group afforded health care is prisoners because of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

From 2001 to 2007, 887 inmates died, 28 from AIDS and 790 from other illnesses. Among them, 48 died from suicide, four from homicide, three from intoxication, eight from accidents and six were from unknown causes, according to data from the  U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“When you get into the other side of it, first the length-of-stay issues and the fact that Michigan is a life-without-parole state,” Caruso said, there are going to be “people who age out and die in prison.”

“If you get a sentence of life without parole, you really are sentenced to death — you’re just sentenced to natural death,” she said.

“We have dialysis in one of our prisons, so if you are a person with compromised kidneys and you need to be on dialysis, you’re going to be at a specific prison in our system where you receive dialysis three times a week at the facility you’re at. These are very, very expensive things.

“We used to get a list of the top 100 most expensive prisoners in the system– always most expensive because of health care,” she said. “Often, the No. 1 prisoner is over a million dollars a year in health care costs.

“That’s not transporting or officers on overtime to watch them. It’s just health care.”

Caruso said, “I remember earlier this year there was a prisoner being transported every day to the University of Michigan for palliative treatment for cancer. And those are things you don’t have an option of doing.

“But we have worked controlling our costs through trying to be able deal to with more things at the prisons.”

Caruso and her department are trying to be more preventative in their approach to health care.

“But there’s still always going to be a number of things and challenges, and every so often issues come up in the health care avenue that are very challenging,” Caruso said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Program helps prisoners to go home and stay home

By TRENTON JOHNSON
Capital News Service

LANSING—The Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (MPRI) is developing ways to safely release inmates and prepare them to stay out.

Patricia Caruso, director of the Department of Corrections, called it a comprehensive approach to reducing crime and creating safer neighborhoods through agency and community collaboration.

The program operates statewide and most of the participants are working in their own communities, she said.

One goal is to reduce threats to public safety in the communities to which those offenders return, she said.

The second goal is to increase success rates of offenders who transition from prison with effective risk management and treatment, offender accountability and community and victim participation, she added.

There are MPRI sites around the state, including Grand Traverse, Emmet, Alpena, Cheboygan, Wayne, Macomb, Muskegon and Ingham counties.

From its inception in 2005 through May of 2010, nearly 25,000 prisoners participated in intensive prisoner re-entry.

Preliminary outcome tracking for those cases shows 33 percent fewer returns to prison for parole violations or new crimes, something referred to as recidivism.

Russell Marlan, Executive Bureau administrator at Corrections, said, “Recidivism rates have improved. Parole officers help people be successful. More parole supervision is being provided.”

Marlan said recidivism rates have improved, from a high pf 45.7 percent of 1998 parolees who returns to prison within three years to a low of 36.4 percent of 2006 parolees.

He said 2007 parolees are on track to show a further drop in recidivism once their three-year follow-up ends.

Marlan said Michigan’s overall revocation rate for 2009 was the lowest since at least 1987 and the department expects this year’s rate to be still lower.

The MPRI makes it possible for the Parole Board to release more inmates because of improved risk assessment, offender accountability and better parole outcomes, he said.

According to Caruso, there are three phases to the MPRI- – getting ready, going home and staying home.

Getting ready measures and creates assignments to reduce the offenders’ risks and build on their needs and strengths, she said.

Going home develops a strong, public safety-conscious parole plan and improves release guidelines.

Staying home provides flexible and firm supervision and services, including sanctions for misbehavior.

Caruso said future plans for the initiative includes a website to improve case management. There is also a plan to establish priorities based on risk and time to release to assign prisoners to programs.

Monique Chappa, the MPRI in-reach coordinator in Clare County, said, the program has a positive impact on prisoners.

Chappa said, “We help them get introduced into the work force and help them with setting up resumes and preparing for interviews. We also help them look for employment on the Michigan Talent Bank.”

The MPRI has helped a lot of inmates who lack family support, Chappa added.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Corrections officials want alternative program renewed

By JULIE MIANECKI

Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan is scheduled to eliminate a money-saving prison program in two years unless the incoming Legislature extends it.

The Special Alternative Incarceration (SAI) facility in Chelsea runs a 90-day program that’s an alternative to prison and saves the state $30 to $35 million a year, as estimated by state fiscal analysts.

“What we’re doing in the Department of Corrections at this point is the best I’ve ever seen,” said Fred Goff, SAI deputy warden and a 37-year department employee. “We’re actually addressing the needs of the offender to provide them with the tools they need to become successful and also to protect the community.”

Both those on probation and those in prison are eligible for the program, said Keith Hickmon, the parole and probation manager for the facility.

However, many crimes disqualify candidates, so most trainees were convicted of nonviolent offenses. The facility holds about 400 trainees at a time.

When sentencing defendants, judges have the option of sending them to the SAI facility, which started admitting women in 1992 but began as a military-style boot camp for men only in 1988.

“Research has shown over the years that that does not work,” Goff said of the military approach. “If somebody is getting ready to commit a crime, I don’t want them to give me 50 push-ups. I want them to think about it.”

In 2008, SAI converted to a program that combines physical activity with behavioral education and therapy. That education covers such topics as critical thinking skills, anger management, substance abuse, family dynamics and even how to choose an appropriate significant other.

“We call that program ‘Pick a Partner,’” Goff said. “A lot of people think that’s not important, but it really is because a lot of our individuals have selected enablers or people who are much like themselves. When you’re paroled and are released into the community, you can’t go back to someone who’s using drugs or drinking alcohol.”

Trainees, as participants are called, can also obtain GEDs and develop life skills such as managing finances, writing a resume and interviewing for a job.

“Most of our people have never had a checkbook,” Goff said. “They may have had a credit card, but unfortunately it usually belonged to someone else.”

Goff added that it’s vitally important to the trainees’ future success that they gain such basic skills before returning to their communities.

“What we used to do in the prison system was give somebody $75 and send them on their way,” he said. “We found that didn’t work because the majority of people just get high, or don’t even make it back to their parole agents.”

The effect of SAI on the recidivism rate – the rate at which released prisoners reoffend –is under study by the JFA Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based criminal justice research group, but Goff said it is lower than the rate for inmates in traditional facilities.

Lower recidivism rates and reduced prison costs are important to a cash-strapped budget, said Jennifer Cobbina, a criminal justice professor at Michigan State University.

“Jails and prisons are overcrowded and states just can’t afford it,” Cobbina said. “And it’s not necessarily helping those who are incarcerated, most of whom are nonviolent offenders.

“Research often shows that prisoners in traditional facilities often come out worse than they went in because they’re nonviolent offenders, and they’ve been hardened,” she said.

Cobbina added that it’s often difficult to get lawmakers to accept alternative incarceration programs because they don’t want to be seen as “soft on crime.”

Elizabeth Arnovits, executive director of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, said that type of thinking creates negative outcomes for both the state and its residents.

“I hope it’s not just looked at from an ideological point of view,” Arnovits said. She said opponents of extending the SAI program after Dec. 31, 2012, “are just upset that people aren’t going to prison for a long period of time – they’re not looking at the effectiveness of the programming or the reduced risk to the community.”

Corrections Director Patricia Caruso agreed that the SAI program helps to break the cycle of crime and deserves another chance.

“I know it will stay open if the decision is based on outcomes and performance,” Caruso said. “When you make decisions outside of that, all bets are off.”

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Inmates trained, but skills don’t translate into jobs

By ANGIE JACKSON
Capital News Service

LANSING – Despite the Department of Corrections’ efforts to prepare inmates for the work force by offering vocational skills training, some experts who work with ex-inmates say their clients often don’t use such specialized training to find jobs in the Upper Peninsula.

John Cordell, public information officer for the department, said the prison system offers a wealth of programs focused on mechanics, auto body repair, horticulture, welding and more fields.

They’re designed to help ex-prisoners find employment after release.

“One thing we’re trying to do is prepare people for employee readiness and meet market demands,” he said. “We’ll continue to evaluate what programs we can provide to offer skills they can apply to success.”

Darrell Dixson, a resource specialist for the Great Lakes Recovery Centers in Manistique, said half of his clients are employed, but not because of skills learned behind bars.

The center is a nonprofit agency that offers treatment for addiction and behavioral health treatment and provides services to former prisoners in the U.P.

“What I attribute to my clients finding work is that they don’t care where they work. I get people who come out from making 35 to 40 cents a day to going to minimum wage, and it’s ok with them,” Dixson said.

That’s not to say that skilled trades aren’t useful, Dixson said, but ex-inmates can’t be picky because of the down economy.

Dixson works to connect ex-felons with jobs in Schoolcraft, Delta and Menominee counties. He said it may be difficult for prisons to cater to the job market with vocational programs because the work force varies from county to county.

“To come out with a license in a skill that the community has no work for, that just causes a sense of frustration,” he said.

Gernot Joachim, a resource specialist at the Great Lakes Recovery Centers in Houghton, said none of his clients came out with specialized training.

As for finding employment, he said there’s no advantage to receiving training while in prison.

“It’s more about being in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Joachim added that some ex-inmates return to specialties they had before serving time.

“Because of the felony on their record and with the state being in the condition it is, it makes it difficult for anyone to get a job,” he said.

Derrick Jones, executive director of the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, said Michigan Works! helps ex-inmates with strategies to show employers how they’ve changed, instead of focusing on their record.

One important strategy is preparing them to manage the social aspects of working, which he referred to as “soft skills.”

“They’ve been through a lot and they often come out hard. We work on their skills, to soften them up, so they can handle different customers, co-workers and stressful situations on the job,” Jones said.

“If you talk to employers, you can have all the technical skills in the world but if you don’t have the soft skills you won’t get the job,” he said.

According to Cordell, the Corrections Department goal is to help everyone who is able-bodied and willing prepare for a job after prison.

Joachim said ex-prisoners should take advantage of whatever opportunity is offered.

“They’ll take what’s available to them until something avails more along their liking,” Joachim said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Filed under: State Agencies

State pushes green initiatives for local communities

By TRENTON JOHNSON
Capital News Service

LANSING—A set of initiatives by the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth is making it easier for communities to go green.

Jeff Spencer, Green Communities Coordinator for the department, said the idea started a year and a half ago in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Townships Association and Michigan Association of Counties.

Spencer said the main objective of the Green Communities Challenge is to encourage all communities to become more energy-efficient through local government operations.

The program also provides information to communities and shares ideas to assist them in becoming green, he added.

Eighty-five localities now participate, including Traverse City, Emmet County, Alpena County, Charlevoix, Detroit, East Lansing, Grand Rapids and Muskegon County, he said.

Its goals include developing recycling and household hazardous waste programs for residents and businesses, developing a policy to use energy-efficient and dark sky-compliant outdoor lighting and helping residents replace older air conditioning and refrigeration units with more efficient models.

Other goals include providing employee benefits for ride sharing, walking, biking or taking public transit to work, starting programs to educate employees about environment and energy conservation and informing institutions and industries about ways to reduce energy consumption.

Russ Soyring, director of planning for Traverse City, said his city used its $100,000 grant for planning.

“The parts of the city we are using it in have great potential for energy efficiency. The program provides the city with opportunities for new business developments and gives people a good place to live in,” he added.

Cynthia VanAllen, Emmet County finance director, said the program also provides education so the public better understands energy-efficient environments.

Spencer said communities are awarded points and green stars for engaging in and reporting green activities.

The Municipal League recognized Traverse City, Charlevoix, Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Marquette, Meridian Township and Troy for earning at least five green stars this year, he said.

In addition, the department has launched a Michigan Efficiency Network, MichEEN, which allows communities to collaborate on green initiatives online.

The new social media platform helps people and organizations working on energy issues to communicate, coordinate and collaborate, Spencer said.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

Filed under: State Agencies

Michigan markets prison beds to other states

By RACHEL IOVAN
Capital News Service

LANSING–Michigan is looking to fill up or open prisons by importing inmates from states with overcrowding problems — for a price.

“There aren’t any active or pending bids for prisoners, but several state facilities have extra beds or could re-open to meet the needs of other states,” said John Cordell, Department of Corrections public information officer.

Cordell said closed facilities, such as those in Deerfield and Riverside in Ionia County, and the Standish maximum-security prison in Arenac County could accommodate thousands of prisoners while benefiting nearby counties financially.

“We see states that need those beds,” Cordell said, “We’ll put in bids to get those prisoners.”

He said it’s much cheaper for states with overcrowded prisons like California, Georgia, Kansas and Pennsylvania to send inmates elsewhere instead of building new facilities or adding to existing ones.

Cordell said Michigan could put in competitive bids for contracts to lock up prisoners here.

Cordell said, “It doesn’t make a significant amount of money for Michigan, but it supports local communities and keeps people employed.”

Elizabeth Arnovits, the executive director of the Michigan Council for Crime and Delinquency, said, “Michigan is one of the leading states in effectively using prison space and keeping people locked up for the right amount of time,” which is why it’s a good candidate for other states to send prisoners to.

Thomas Mullaney, president of the Michigan Association of Counties, agreed that prisons help communities financially.

“Prisons can serve as a valuable economy stimulant, particularly in counties where economic growth is limited. The larger and more occupied a prison is, the more jobs it can provide to the surrounding communities,” he said.

Cordell said the re-opening of a Lake County facility near Muskegon is a success story that could be emulated by other prisons.

The department contracted with Pennsylvania last year to house prisoners and 2,000 prisoners came, Cordell said. The state receives $62 per day for each imported prisoner, and Pennsylvania covers their transportation and health care costs.

That works out to more than $45.2 million per year.

Cordell said the state has marketed the maximum-security Standish facility to the federal government and California, and an environmental survey of the prison is underway.

According to Corrections, Michigan’s prison population has decreased since 2005, when the state opted into a federal program that rehabilitates inmates and supports them once they’re paroled.

The program brings in faith-based organizations, provides group therapy for inmates and helps parolees find jobs and housing upon release.

A department study shows a 33 percent drop in recidivism rates between the start of the program in 2005 and May 2010.

Cordell said Kansas used the same re-entry program successfully, but it ended recently because of funding problems. Now Kansas is looking for beds in other states to handle the increase.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

Filed under: State Agencies

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