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Type: Public event

The Policy and Politics of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative

Date & time

Mar 29, 2010, 4:00-5:30 pm EDT


Weill Hall

Free and open to the public.


Moderator: Jeffrey D. Padden, President of Public Policy Associates, Inc.
Patricia L. Caruso, Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, 2003-present;
Peter Luke, Lansing correspondent for Booth Newspapers;
John Proos, State Representative (R-St. Joseph), Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections;
Alma Wheeler Smith, State Representative (D-Salem Township), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections;

It is stunningly difficult to transform the way a state government carries out a major function, but that is precisely what the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI) has set out to do. The MPRI is an ambitious effort to improve public safety by reducing the likelihood that prisoners returning to communities will commit crimes. Based on two decades of national research, it focuses on identifying prisoner characteristics that predict recidivism and then addressing those risks both during and after incarceration. The initiative is transforming the Michigan Department of Corrections and the way in which it connects with communities. Widely regarded as one of the most effective reentry initiatives in the country, the MPRI is entering its seventh year of development and implementation and is operating statewide.

At the outset, the MPRI was expected to reduce returns to prison for parole violations and new crimes. It also prepares prisoners more effectively for parole, thus making it easier for the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board to issue paroles with confidence. Both of these effects reduce prison population and, along with several other contributing factors, the result is a decline in Michigan's prison population from about 51,000 to about 46,000. While there has not yet been a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the MPRI, the trends are unfolding in the direction and at the magnitude predicted by prior research. By all currently available measures, the MPRI is a highly successful initiative.

The unprecedented reduction in population has made it possible for Michigan to close several prisons, which reduces taxpayer costs. When prisons close, however, prison staff lose their jobs, a reality that some staff people have reacted vociferously. Pickets, protests, and letters to newspapers have alleged that the MPRI is an 'early release program' that puts dangerous prisoners into Michigan communities too soon. Prosecuting attorneys in the state have also questioned the number and timing of prisoners being released, and some of their rhetoric has been highly inflammatory. These responses to the MPRI have had an impact on the perceptions of the initiative by policy makers and the public.

The panel will discuss the current policy framework of the MPRI, the politics of the initiative within the Michigan legislature, and the effect of public criticism on its future. Their perspectives will include that of the top official of the Michigan Department of Corrections, the Democratic chair and Republican vice-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, and a keen observer of Michigan government who has been a newspaper reporter for over 25 years.

This event is organized by professors Jeffrey Morenoff and David Harding, and is sponsored by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

For more information call (734) 647-4091.