A “culture change” in Michigan’s corrections department helped enable the state to cut its prison population by 7,500 in three years, says state corrections director Patricia Caruso. The department realized that it had to change its ways after the state’s economy declined sharply starting in 2001, Caruso told the annual conference of the Bureau of Justice Statistics and Justice Research and Statistics Association Thursday in Portland, Maine. She spoke at a program on “justice reinvestment,” using the money saved on reducing prison populations for offenders’ social services.
Caruso described her department’s campaign to meet with other key justice system players and community leaders to improve the handling of parolees, whose repeat criminality was adding to the prisoner count. The department also had to persuade places where prisoners were located that their purpose was not to provide jobs. At the same program in Portland, Kansas Corrections Director Roger Werholtz said his state’s justice reinvestment effort is faltering in part because state legislators have increased penalties for some crimes, requiring more prison beds. Like Michigan, Kansas had made progress in cutting the percentage of parolees who return to prison after committing new crimes or violating parole conditions.