Michigan’s prison system has undergone a culture change from locking up law breakers for as long as possible to being more selective about whom to put behind bars, says state Corrections Director Patricia Caruso, reports the Detroit News. The state closed 10 prisons last year and has curbed its inmate population from 51,500 to 45,000 since 2007. The number of women prisoners has been cut by 30 percent. That reverses a build-up trend that lasted decades.
“We went from a small prison system, a medium system, to a huge prison system because we could,” Caruso said. She added there was “no push-back” because communities wanted the jobs that prisons provided and others “didn’t have the political will to stop us.” She spoke at an inmate re-entry conference bringing together government, businesses, social services and faith-based groups that deal with integrating released felons back into society. “If we are not focused on get out and stay out, what are we here for?” she asked. Michigan has the fifth-largest prison system in the nation, behind four of the largest states — Texas, California, New York and Florida — and employs 18,000, or about one-third of all state employees.