Reducing incarceration is good, but corrections spending must ensure adequate services

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May 2017
Peter Ruark, Senior Policy Analyst

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After peaking in 2006, Michigan’s prisoner population has decreased by nearly 20%, and prison-related costs have decreased and flattened during that time. The Department of Corrections budget is almost entirely funded with state general funds, and total spending is expected to remain at approximately $2 billion in 2018. Around $1.6 billion, or almost 80%, of the current budget for the Department of Corrections is used for custody, housing, healthcare, treatment programs and academic/vocational programs for prisoners.

PRISON OPERATIONS

BB Reducing incarceration is good graphic 1The governor funds prison operations at a total of approximately $1.2 billion, spread across the state’s 29 prison facilities and including regional support systems for those facilities.

  • The Senate cuts $41.6 million from prison operations, with the rationale that as prison populations are decreasing, prison spending should decrease as well.
  • The House agrees with the governor’s funding level.

The League encourages the state to do what it can to reduce the prison population and supports responsible adjustments in corrections funding that correspond to such long-term reductions. The League is concerned, however, that the Senate proposal cuts too much too soon, and that the magnitude of the cut could lead prisons to reduce important services such as healthcare, training and rehabilitation.

INCARCERATION ALTERNATIVES

Residential Alternative to Prison Program: In 2015, probation violators made up 28.3% of Michigan’s prison intake. The Wayne Residential Alternative to Prison program provides low-risk probation violators an opportunity to avoid going to prison and instead enter a residential program in which they receive occupational training and cognitive behavioral programming. The governor’s budget continues funding this program at $500,000, and adds $1.5 million to replicate it in 13 counties on the west side of the state.

  • The Senate does not include funding for either the Wayne County or Westside Residential Alternative to Prison programs.
  • The House concurs with the governor’s spending on both programs.

The League encourages efforts to help probation violators avoid prison and instead receive occupational skills training and rehabilitative services in a residential setting, and supports the continuation of the Wayne County program and the implementation of the Westside program.

OCCUPATIONAL TRAINING

Many incarcerated individuals do not have occupational skills that enable them to acquire gainful employment upon their release. Providing occupational training in the prisons increases the likelihood that returning residents will become employed and decreases their likelihood of recidivism and the need for public services and assistance.

Vocational Village: The governor maintains $2 million in state funding for the Vocational Village program for 200 prisoners in Jackson. The program trains prisoners in the skilled trades, enabling them to earn nationally recognized certificates before returning to their communities.

  • The Senate and House concur with the governor.

Goodwill Flip the Script: The governor eliminates funding for the Flip the Script program operated by Goodwill Industries in Wayne County. The program has been funded since the 2015 budget year, and provides education, job training and mentoring to 16? to 39?year?olds who have entered the criminal justice system—with the goal of keeping them out of the prison system.

  • The Senate budget doubles funding for this program to $3 million.
  • The House retains the current funding level of $1.5 million.

The League believes that occupational skills training programs are key to helping former prisoners reintegrate into mainstream society and attain gainful employment that helps their families become economically secure. The League supports funding for training programs that have been shown to work, and expansions of successful programs to reach more of the incarcerated population.

HEALTH-RELATED SERVICES

Between the 2002 and 2016 budget years, corrections spending overall increased at an average annual rate of 1%, while funding for prisoner healthcare and mental health services grew by nearly 3%.

Hepatitis C Treatment: The current budget has $14.9 million appropriated for drug treatment of prisoners with Hepatitis C. The governor has requested an additional $13.9 million from the current year Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget to expand this program. Assuming the DHHS transfer goes through, the governor reduces the 2018 corrections appropriation for this program by $3.19 million, to $11.7 million, bringing the total funding for Hepatitis C treatment to $25.6 million.

  • The Senate reduces the 2018 corrections appropriation to $4.9 million, for a total of $18.8 million if the transfer is approved.
  • The House reduces the 2018 corrections appropriation to $6.7 million, for a total of $20.5 million if the transfer is approved.

Cancer Treatment: For 2018, the governor’s budget adds $2.3 million for oncology treatment for a total of $73.9 million, reflecting the fact that the number of inmates treated for cancer increased by 48% from 2015 to 2016, and that growth is expected to continue.

  • The Senate and House concur with the governor on cancer treatment funding.

Mental Health Services: The governor increases mental health services by $778,000 for the 2018 budget year, for a total of $61.2 million.

  • The Senate and House concur with the governor on mental health services funding.

Substance Abuse Testing and Treatment Services: The governor provides a very small increase of $5,700 to cover a net increase in costs for salary and wage increases, for a total of $21.6 million.

  • The Senate and House concur with the governor on substance abuse services funding.

The League supports adequate funding for healthcare, mental health and substance abuse services. Lack of adequate funding for these services endangers the well-being of incarcerated individuals and poses a greater burden on their families when they reenter mainstream society.