Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reduce Prisons, Reduce Crime?

In an experiment, as reported by the Detroit News, going against the history of the long-term failure of service based rehabilitation programming, Michigan’s efforts to reduce crime by shutting prisons and focusing more on reentry will—unless a serious effort towards stimulating the internal change required to bring criminals from criminal life to communal life—fail.

That being said, we wish them the very best—while reminding prison closure advocates that the criminal world is expanding, not shrinking.

An excerpt.

“Lansing -- 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.

“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.

“Michigan has the fifth-largest prison system in the nation, behind four of the largest states -- Texas, California, New York and Florida -- and employs 18,000, or about one-third of all state government employees, Caruso said.