Michigan has started a four-month intensive prisoner re-entry program, reports mlive.com. A unit in Jackson, Mi., is part of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI), Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s plan to reduce the state’s high recidivism rate. With nearly half of Michigan’s parolees wanted by authorities or back in prison within two years, the state is trying to keep offenders on the straight path and save taxpayers money. In the Jackson program, inmates learn how to budget their money, interview for jobs, and put together a resume. They make plans to get help from community agencies once they’ve left prison. In the past, that help has been missing, disorganized, or late, corrections officials say.
The project is a model that officials hope to replicate across the state by 2007. The plan is to send inmates nearing release to a prison as close to home as possible and offer them services before they are released. They meet their parole officers before release rather than after. And there’s money to pay local social services groups to help with housing, jobs, mental health or substance abuse services. Usually, parolees simply get a bus ticket, a pair of khakis and a future meeting with a parole officer. That’s not enough, said Michigan Department of Corrections Deputy Director Dennis Schrantz. “It’s within that first week they start to slip, particularly if they’re drug addicts,” he said, adding that 80 percent of inmates have a drug or alcohol problem. MPRI has a $12 million budget. Two Lansing-based public interest groups, Public Policy Associates and the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, are organizing community support for parolees using a $1.9 million grant from the New York-based JEHT Foundation. Supporters of the re-entry initiative span the political spectrum, including prosecutors, Republican lawmakers, and advocates for prisoners. Michigan is setting the “gold standard” of how to do re-entry right, said Robert Crane, president of the JEHT Foundation.