Michigan will expand this fall a program designed to give prisoners the tools to avoid returning to prison after parole, with hopes of taking it statewide by next year, reports the Detroit News. The effort is aimed at reducing the $117 million annual cost of housing repeat offenders. The Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative helps inmates explore housing options and job training opportunities months before their release. Early reports show that out of the 1,330 program participants released, 85 have returned to prison since April 2006. That’s a 14.9 percent recidivism rate, which is about three times lower than the 48 percent of parolees who return to prison without the program.
Now in its second year, the $12 million program is operating in 13 prisons that serve 18 counties. “Eventually this is not going to be an initiative, it’s going to be the way we do business,” said Dennis Schrantz of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Prison costs have exploded by 225 percent in Michigan since 1990, when the state prison budget was $800 million. Now the budget is $1.8 billion, with each inmate costing $28,000 annually to house. When the program is implemented across the state, savings are expected to start at $42.7 million in the first year and increase to $75.9 million.