Michigan prisons

Kjoles

A northern Michigan community lost 40 percent of its population between 2016 and 2017, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Fife Lake Township could soon lose tens of thousands of dollars in state funding due to the change. 

Last week, a 17-year old student opened fire at Santa Fe High School. He left 10 dead and 10 more injured.

With every mass shooting in the United States comes a cry to address the issue of mental health. Lawmakers say we need to identify these troubled kids — and get them mental health resources before something terrible happens.

Morgan Springer

The state House has adopted bills that would allow prisoners in advanced stages of illness including cancer and dementia to be paroled for medical reasons.

 

The House split on the bills with Republicans and Democrats voting on both sides of the issue.

Morgan Springer

More problems plague the food in Michigan’s prisons. This time it’s maggots. 

An investigation by the Detroit Free Press found three separate incidents over the summer of maggots in the food at a Jackson-area prison. 

There are 2.2 million people now incarcerated in American prisons. 

Each year, hundreds of thousands of those inmates are released.

One of the most important ways of keeping them from re-offending and winding up back in prison is education. 

Aaron Selbig

IPR reporters Morgan Springer and Daniel Wanschura were recognized Saturday at the annual Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) awards banquet in St. Louis.

Springer won first place in the category "Soft Feature" for her story Behind bars, transformation through poetry, which tells the story of prisoners who find solace and community in a poetry writing workshop.

MDOC

Today, the Michigan Department of Corrections announced that Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley is scheduled to close in September. The low security prison employs 230 people.

State Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) says the loss of 230 jobs is "a huge negative for Grand Traverse County."

He says it’s not only bad news for employees at Pugsley and their families, it’s bad for businesses.

Thanks to an opinion handed down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court, some 350 Michigan prison inmates woke up today with a new view on life.

In a six-to-three decision, the High Court ruled that all prisoners who have been sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as minors should be given a chance to seek parole.

Deborah LaBelle is an Ann Arbor-based attorney and director of the Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative with the ACLU.

Imagine that you’re in prison, and you mess up. Maybe you lose your temper and lash out at a corrections officer, or you use your fists to resolve a conflict with your cellmate.

That can land you in “administrative segregation,” also known as solitary confinement.

Too many Americans have languished in solitary, not knowing when they’ll get out and not being allowed privileges like calls from home. And when they do get out, they’re often worse off than they were before they went into solitary, full of anger and seeking retribution.

Aging inmates are the fastest-growing population in Michigan’s prisons.

This has presented a critical challenge: how to provide end-of-life care to those inmates.

That’s where a prison hospice program called CHOICES comes into play. It stands for Choose, Health Options, Initiate Care, and Educate Self.

Morgan Springer

Incarcerated poets get together weekly at Writer’s Block, a poetry writing workshop at Macomb Correctional Facility outside Detroit. Eight inmates file into a conference room. Dressed in navy and orange jumpsuits, they greet everyone with affectionate handshakes.

 


What determines whether a prisoner should be paroled?

In Michigan, that decision is informed by a risk assessment questionnaire called COMPAS.

Sonja B. Starr is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and is the co-director of the Center for Empirical Legal Studies.


After 19 months of maggoty food, traces of rodents, workers engaging in sex acts with inmates, and much more, the state of Michigan today has terminated its contract with Aramark to feed prison inmates.

The Detroit News’ Chad Livengood tells us that each side has said this decision was the result of a mutual agreement.

There's no denying that state spending and budgets are stretched tight, and it's forcing a fresh look at the soaring costs of our prisons.

What are we really getting for the $2 billion we spend per year on corrections? And how can we trim that corrections bill?

Prison fence.
WFIU Public Radio/Flickr

There's a new plan to reopen the so-called 'punk prison' near Baldwin, and to bring 300 high-security inmates from Vermont to northern Michigan. The prison used to house juvenile offenders, until it was closed in the mid-2000s.

Supporters of the move say it would lead to 300 new jobs in Lake County, but opponents say it's a dangerous idea.

If you are a 17-year-old and you break a law here in Michigan, you’re going to be tried as an adult.

Michigan is one of nine states that tries 17-year-olds as adults.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office will investigate a possible murder-for-hire plot involving a prison food service worker.

Michigan State Police suspects an Aramark employee of approaching an inmate of an Upper Peninsula prison about having another inmate killed.

The Detroit Free Press first reported the story last week. Now the attorney general’s office says it will launch its own investigation into the incident. It says the local State Police post in Sault Ste. Marie requested the investigation.

Gov. Rick Snyder is staying silent on the latest scandal related to the state’s prison food service contract. That’s while the matter is under investigation.

Last year, Michigan privatized its prison food services and hired Philadelphia-based Aramark to handle them.

The Detroit Free Press reports Michigan State Police suspects an Aramark food service worker of trying to conspire with an inmate to have another inmate killed.

In 1980, Michigan’s corrections budget was 3% of the state’s general fund. Now it is 20% of the general fund. What caused this increase?

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, joined Stateside to answer this question.

He said it is a result of the "tough-on-crime" approach that started in the 1980s.

“Just throwing people into prison and keeping them there for ever-longer periods of time just isn’t really working,” Sikkema said. “It’s not driving down crime rates, it’s taking a lot of taxpayer money, and there are voices now saying 'let’s take a look at this.'"

Sikkema said a lot of the voices raising concerns and calling for review of corrections are conservative voices. Michigan has a higher cost per prisoner than the average around the country, and those prisoners serve longer sentences. Both contribute greatly to the high corrections budget.

*Listen to the full story above. 

A report by the Michigan Attorney General's office has found both human and technology failures played a part in the prison escape of a convicted murderer.

Michael Elliot slipped out of the Ionia Correctional Facility last February 2 by crawling under fences during a heavy snowfall. He wore white clothes to blend into the snow. He was captured about 24 hours later in Indiana.

The Michigan Supreme Court says felons sentenced as juveniles to life without parole won’t get new sentences. That’s despite a US Supreme Court ruling that says it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

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The clock is ticking on a decade-long effort to prevent sexual violence inside American prisons. In a recent survey, the vast majority of states said they will try to comply with federal rules. But several others, led by Texas, have protested to the Justice Department.

Jan Lastocy served 15 months in a Michigan prison for attempted embezzlement — her first brush with the law. The assaults began when a new corrections officer showed up at the warehouse where she had been assigned to work as a secretary.

Tim Pearce/Flickr

A group of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys goes to work Thursday on finding new and better ways to collect fines and fees from defendants, and to ensure that people are not sent to jail because they don’t have the money to pay.       

An NPR investigation identified Michigan as one of the states where judges sometimes send defendants to jail for failure to pay – even when that’s not because they won’t pay, but they can’t. The US Supreme Court has said that’s unconstitutional.

U.S. lawmakers and judges are feeling some urgency to solve the same problem: how to stop sending people to jail simply for failing to pay court fines and fees, often because they're too poor to afford them. Policymakers react to a recent NPR investigation into the issue.

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