Michigan House and Senate Reach Agreement on FY 2014 Corrections Budget

 Full report in PDF

On Thursday, May 23, the joint House/Senate Conference Committee for the Department of Corrections approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The Corrections conference report was subsequently adopted by the full House of Representatives as part of HB 4328, an omnibus bill that includes the budgets for all state departments and services except higher education, community colleges and K-12 School Aid. A vote by the full Senate is expected this week. Agreements reached by joint House/Senate conference committees can be either approved or rejected by the full House and Senate, but cannot be amended on the floor.

The Conference Committee budget includes $38 million in additional funding compared to Fiscal Year 2013. The governor had recommended a Department of Corrections budget totaling $2.03 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, a 0.5% increase over the current year budget. This relatively small increase in the executive budget was in part due to the $24 million in expected savings from the expansion of Medicaid to 133% of the federal poverty line.

The Conference Committee, reflecting the Legislature’s unwillingness to extend Medicaid, did not include the $24 million in Medicaid savings. Instead, it adds $38.1 million to the Corrections budget, including $40.8 million in state General Funds, for a total of $2.06 billion in funding from all revenue sources. This is 1.9% higher than current year funding.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Governor: The governor’s budget included 100% federal funds to support the expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals up to 133% of the federal poverty level. This influx of federal revenue would increase total Medicaid funding to $12.3 billion, and result in savings in the state’s General Fund of $206 million by allowing the state to use federal funds to provide comprehensive services.

The Medicaid expansion would cover some healthcare services for an estimated 80% of prisoners and parolees under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, with expected savings in the DOC budget of $24.2 million. Although inmates do not qualify for Medicaid while incarcerated, offsite inpatient hospitalizations would qualify for reimbursements, as would substance abuse, mental health and sex offender treatment for parolees in the process of re-entry back into the community. Access to basic and preventive health and mental health services is a critical component of a successful transition back into the community and helps to lower recidivism rates. Unfortunately such access is currently limited, resulting in greater overall costs when parolees seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee did not accept the governor’s recommendation to expand Medicaid coverage to the estimated 49,500 prisoners and parolees who would qualify, and removed this projected savings of $24.2 million from the budget.

NEW EMPLOYEE TRAINING SCHOOL

Governor: The governor recommended a one-time increase of $9.03 million to train 400 additional corrections officers to meet staffing needs, bringing total spending in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to approximately $17.7 million. Funds for this program cover a range of expenses associated with the training of new officers, including salary and payroll costs for new officers during their training period, uniforms and training materials.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee concurred with the governor’s recommendation. Previously, the House and Senate had rejected the governor’s proposal in their respective budgets, citing Public Act 526 of 2012, which passed during the lameduck session last year, as the reason for this cut. PA 526 designates community colleges as alternatives to state-run academies where the training of new corrections officers would take place. It was not clear, however, that these community colleges would be ready to begin training officers in the coming academic year.

PRISONER RE-ENTRY AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Governor: The governor’s budget reduced funding for two prison re-entry and community support programs, while retaining current funding for his public safety initiative:

  • Prisoner re-entry local services providers: The governor reduced funding for local services providers from $22.7 million in the current year, to $13.8 million in 2014. This reduction was the result of anticipated savings ($377,200) from an expansion of Medicaid, as well as internal transfers ($8.5 million) of previously allocated funds that are not expected to be spent in the current fiscal year. These funds are currently available for 18 regional prisoner re-entry service providers responsible for assisting prisoners in transitioning back into their local communities after release from incarceration. Included are transitional housing support; employment training and education programs; transportation and family support services, including assistance with accessing public assistance and other services; and substance abuse and mental health services.
  • Prisoner re-entry DOC programs: The governor reduced funding for DOC prisoner re-entry programs from $23.5 million to $9.7 million. This was the result of expected Medicaid savings of $3.2 million, as well as $10.6 million in internal transfers of previously allocated funds that are not expected to be spent in the current fiscal year. These funds are used for services within prisons, including risk and needs assessments, programs to reduce offender risk, and the preparation of re-entry plans. Funds are also used for a re-entry project for offenders with special needs (medically fragile, youthful offenders or those with mental health issues), and community-based sex offender treatment programs.
  • Public safety initiative: The governor provided continuation funding ($4.75 million) for a portion of the public safety initiative he outlined in his special message to the Legislature on public safety. This funding is used by distressed communities in high-crime areas to purchase jail space in neighboring counties to avoid backlogs.

Conference Committee:

  • Prisoner re-entry DOC programs: The Conference Committee provided $12.9 million for DOC prisoner re-entry programs (up from the governor’s recommendation of $9.7 million), and $14.2 million for prisoner re-entry local service providers (up from the governor’s recommendation of $13.8 million).
  • H.I.R.E. job training: The Conference Committee added $1 million to the Corrections budget to provide funding for the “Helping Individuals Return to Employment” (H.I.R.E.) job training pilot program to be operated by Goodwill Industries. This pilot is part of the Prisoner Re-Entry and Community Support programs. It will assist parolees with disabilities entering the job market by assessing their disabilities and vocational needs, and matching them with training, placement or other employment services.
  • Public safety initiative: The Conference Committee reduced funding for this initiative by $250,000, and transferred it to the Second Chance Employment program. This program, run by Goodwill’s oil filter recycling project, places reintegrating prisoners into employment and training and prepares them for future employment opportunities.

FOOD SERVICE

Governor: The governor made no major changes in DOC food services, but recognized agreements with the Department of Human Services to cover food service at Maxey/Green Oaks Center, and with the Department of Community Health for food service at the DCH Forensic Center.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee reduced funding for food services by $6 million, the result of efforts to privatize prison food services. Originally, the Department of Corrections had rejected a bid from a private company to provide food service, claiming that it did not meet the mandated 5% minimum savings. The DOC subsequently reversed its decision and accepted a bid that, after alternative calculations, claimed to save the state 20% ($16 million) a year.