Playlist: Michigan

The policy and politics of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative panel

March 29, 2010 1:21:24
Kaltura Video

Patricia L. Caruso, Peter Luke, John Proos, Alma Wheeler Smith & moderator Jeffrey D. Padden discuss the policy framework of the MPRI, the politics of the initiative in the legislature, and the effect of public criticism on its future. March, 2010.


>>Tom Ivako:  We're happy to have you with us.  I'm Tom Ivako, with the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, also known as Close Up.  I'm happy to welcome you on behalf of the Ford School and Close Up to Weill Hall for today's event.  It's sure to be an engaging discussion and one of the most important policy topics facing the state of Michigan today, reform and our corrections system.  And I'd like to point out that we will have time at the end of the panel discussion for question-- for questions and answers with the audience.  We have some cards and pencils placed around the auditorium.  If you have a question, please write it down on one of the cards and then hold your hand up. We'll have some people come by to pick up those cards from you.  Today's event is co-sponsored by Close Up and the Ford School and has been organized by Professors Jeffrey Morenoff and David Harding from the University of Michigan as well as Jeffrey Padden from Public Policy Associates, Incorporated.  Mr. Padden is serving as the moderator today and he will introduce the rest of the panelists, but it's my pleasure to first introduce Mr. Padden.  Jeffrey Padden is the founder and President of Public Policy Associates, a firm that works across the nation in public policy research, development and evaluation.  Mr. Padden began working in corrections policy in 1975 when he was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.  He chaired the House Committee on corrections for eight years and served on the Judiciary Committee chairing the subcommittee on sentencing guidelines.  For the past six years Mr. Padden has led Public Policy Associates work with the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Michigan Counsel on Crime and Delinquency and the Leadership of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative, the topic of today's discussion.  Mr. Padden's experience of over thirty years in public policy has included roles as Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Commerce, Director of the Governor's Human Investment Project and five terms in the Michigan House of Representatives.  He holds a Bachelor's Degree from Wayne State University and a Master's Degree from the Kennedy School at Harvard, please join me in welcoming Mr. Jeffrey Padden. 
^M00:02:10 [ Applause ] ^M00:02:18
>> I am very happy to be a part of this panel discussion today on the Policy and Politics of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative and particularly to be doing it here in Ann Arbor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.  The folks who participate in the work of this school are uniquely interested in and committed to improving public policy in Michigan and around the country, so it's a good thing that you're here to learn a little bit more about the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative.  As promised, we will be talking not just about the policy issues themselves, but also about the politics, transforming the way state government or any big state government agency does business is a stunningly difficult challenge and yet that is exactly the challenge that the MPRI has undertaken under the leadership of Governor Grandholm and Director Pat Caruso.  It's-- it's important that it has been framed and is, in fact, is an initiative that's aimed at improving public safety.  My experience in corrections policy over the past thirty plus years has shown me that there really is sort of a false choice that had been set up between doing the things that would prepare a prisoner for successful reintegration into the community or being tough on crime.  The Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative resolves that false choice by showing that those really are one in the same.  If we prepare people better to reintegrate into society, then we are, in fact, protecting the public better.  I will talk a little about-- I will give you a bit of an overview of-- of the Prisoner Reentry Initiative but before I do that I want to let you know who are the members of this very illustrious and well qualified panel.  Pat Caruso has been a very creative director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. I'm not going to read the bios that you were handed as you walked in-- in the door, but I'll tell you what I really know about these people.  Pat has been willing to take risks and it requires a risk taker to undertake the profound transformation that the department has been undergoing in the past seven years and the policy apparatus that surrounds it.  So, what we have in Pat Caruso is a leader who has been unafraid of taking on the challenges of  making that big powerful transformation, which involves not just changing the written policies but changing attitudes, changing culture, reeducating how many workers, sixteen thousand currently.
>> Down to sixteen.
>> Jeffery Padden:  Down to sixteen thousand employees of the Department of Corrections, every single one of them has to learn what's different about the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative.  So, Pat has been the kind of leader who would take on that challenge.  In Representative Alma Wheeler Smith and John Proos, we have a republican and a democrat in the opposite order.  Let's see if I can keep that straight; Democratic Chair of the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Corrections and the Republic Vice-Chair of that committee.  Together, they are responsible for shaping a good portion of the budget decisions.  They sometimes consult with the Senate on that I guess. But, at least on the House side they are the two leaders who are responsible for shaping the funding decisions, and of course, funding dramatically affects policy.  You've heard that bipartisanship and collaboration are dead in the Michigan legislature.  Alma and John are leaving breathing evidence that that's not quite true.  I have watched them collaborate over the last several years to learn more about the policy issues involved in the MPRI and to try to figure out how the legislature can play a constructive role in supporting the transformation that Pat and the Governor have been proposing.  And finally, on the panel is Peter Luke and I've known Peter Luke for a long time and I told him a little while ago that it's hard for me to think of him as grizzled veteran reporter since I ran across you first many, many years ago.  But, Peter is-- is a very astute observer of the Lansing Policy and Political scene.  So, having Peter as a member of this panel lets all of you and all of us take a step back from what-- what Pat and Alma and John are deeply embroiled in every single day and tell you what he sees from that outside perspective.  So, that's our-- that's our panel and I think we are all very fortunate to have them with us today.  A quick bit of history about the MPRI, this was one of Governor Grandholm's initial policy initiatives.  And, in fact she had embraced it prior to becoming Governor.  The planning for this began in her very first year in office, in fact, within a few months of Governor Grandholm taking office and the first real efforts around implementation took place less then two years later.  It's important to understand MPRI is an evidence based practice.  That means it's based on research that's been done all around the country over the past twenty years.  We were never able to invent anything like the MPRI when I was a member of the legislature because the research base simply wasn't there to justify a major retooling of corrections such as this.  It's organized into three phases.  The in prison, which is the getting ready phase, the going home phase, which connects community with prisons in a way that's profoundly different then used to be the case.  It used to be that the prison walls didn't just keep prisoners in.  It kept everyone else not.  The staying home phase is-- is the process of making sure that all-- all of the progress toward reducing risks while folks are in prison continues once folks are in the community.  I mentioned that Pat Caruso has presided over these profound cultural changes and it is not easy for folks who have been employed at the Department of Corrections for ten, twenty, thirty years saying, "Well gee, next Monday morning we're going to be doing business differently."  Big challenge, and takes a lot of effort, a lot of planning, a lot of preparation.  It is really amazing for me to stand here after being involved in the MPRI since 2003 and say, "It is now a state wide initiative with eighteen regions serving all eighty three counties and that every prisoner who is-- who comes into the Michigan prisons is touched by the MPRI."  There is a strong focus on employment readiness because employment is one of the factors that really effects the likelihood that somebody will be able to successfully reintegrate into the community.  And that employment readiness is supported by the close collaboration between the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative and Michigan's Employment Delivery System.  The MPRI has gone from zero to serving about eleven thousand prisoners per year.  That's everybody who comes in the front door.  They all get what's referred to as a compass assessment, which assesses the risks and strengths of each prisoner transition.  Accountability plans are then built based on those specific risks and those plans guide the service delivery in prison and out into the community.  Over time, everybody who's released will be a part of the MPRI and that will amount to something like twelve thousand prisoners per year and they won't all get the same thing.  This is not a one size fits all program at all.  In fact, the MPRI is most effective in serving, in reducing the risk posed by moderate and high risk prisoners.  The MPRI is a complete system change, so it really requires everybody to be involved.  The-- the promise made by Governor Grandholm was one of the important strengths of this initiative and very complimentary to that is that-- is that the Governor had exactly the right team to implement.  And Pat Caruso and former Deputy Director Dennis Shrantz and Director Caruso's top management team, they have all been unrelenting in moving this thing from zero to a hundred in a very quick period of time.  The fact that's it's driven by evidence of what reduces recidivism I think is one of the things that gives it credibility.  If we were just talking about providing services to be nice to prisoners, I think we know what the results would be in terms of its sustainability within the legislature and the public.  So, it is a state level strategy that focuses on public safety, but provides within a broad framework lots of local flexibility and leadership.  There have been-- there's preliminary evidence of what works.  We are still not to the point where we can establish a firm causal relationship between what the MPRI is doing and the results that are being achieved, but all the preliminary indications are very positive.  It used to be that one out of two prisoners would go back to prison within twenty four months.  Now, that's more like one out of three.  That's a huge increase, a huge improvement and that means that there are over two thousand prisoners who would have come back, who would have been expected to come back who didn't.  That translates into real crimes that did not happen.  The prison population is down dramatically and that translates into huge cost savings for the state of Michigan or will over time.  There are a number of other indications of the kind of success that the MPRI has-- has enjoyed and over time we expect that to-- to continue to grow.  The prior research indicated that for medium and high risk prisoners, results as good as a 50 percent reduction in return to prison rate is possible.  We haven't got there yet with the MPRI, but the MPRI is really the first effort in the whole country to integrate lots of different practices at the in prison level, the transition point and the community level to pull together all of those practices into one big system change.  So, with that I do want to turn to our panel and we'll start with Pat Caruso.  Pat is the Director of the department.  I know everybody is eager to hear what the-- what the MPRI looks like from your point of view.
>> Pat Caruso:  Thank you very much Jeff and thank you to the university for again hosting this discussion.  I often talk about reentry as an opportunity that grew from crisis and the crisis was an incredible economic crisis that struck our state in 2001, ahead of most of the rest of the country. And it caused us to stand back and look at what was going on and that led into obviously the election of a new Governor, Jeff mentioned the Governor came in with this already on her radar.  And so I've been fortunate to have been part of this from the very start.  I've been the Director now for seven years, and was actually Deputy Director of the prison system at the time of the election.  I'm not sure we would have gotten here-- we certainly wouldn't be here now had that crisis not occurred.  We were at a point where the Department of Corrections budget consumed twenty five percent of the general fund of the state of Michigan.  One in three state employees was just not sustainable and we had gotten there really the way almost every other state got there, because what happened in Michigan was just like any other state where through a series of policy decisions sometimes driven by politics, but I honestly would say often times driven by good intentions but good intentions not based on evidence that those policies would actually make any difference in terms of making people safer.  Through the implementation of a lot of policies which became law our prison population started to just go through the roof and that's what happened all around the country.  And so, we created scenarios in communities all over the state where we were the main employer.  You know, I'm from the Upper Peninsula and we have prisons all across the UP where good people come to work every day and work in our prisons.  They didn't create this scenario; they're just part of it, but they do rely on those jobs and those communities rely on this job.  And that story is something that has been repeated all over the United States.  In Michigan we decided we had to make a change before most other states made that decision and we did that initially because we couldn't afford to do it.  But, one of the things we realized very early on is that the way we were running the Department of Corrections, the way we were incarcerating people, the way we looked at what our focus was, we were not making the citizens of our state safer.  They were not safer because as Jeff mentioned one in two came back who got out.  They were not safer for spending two billion dollars of the general fund running a prison system.  Monies that could be available for something else whether its public education or healthcare, housing or transportation, whatever it is, things that might make a bigger difference, police on the streets that we weren't holding up our end of the bargain if our mission is to protect the public.  And so, we made a decision to change how we ran the department and to change the culture in the department and to start to focusing on success and start measuring our success based on what happened as people went through that system and when they got out.  And, that's what we're here to talk about today in some of the underlying pieces of that, the political part of it, which is very interesting.  I have a book I often refer to which talks about how over a period of decades our country converted from a military industrial based economy to a prison industrial based economy and though it sounds very offensive and I was offended when I first heard it, I will tell you there's a lot of truth to that and though we certainly do not overtly incarcerate people to provide jobs, we have created an economy that relies on those big prisons and the numbers of people we incarcerate to provide jobs.  And there's tremendous moral implications of that, but it is the circumstances we found ourselves in.  As we decided to change the direction we were going and as we decided to put policies in place in our system that would result in a lower population in our prison system we had to face the politics of what that would mean and so all of these communities around the state who in many cases we had forced to take prisons, we put them in the communities who either wanted them or because they were desperate for jobs or they did not have the political ability to stop us.  So, we forced those prisons in.  Now, love their prisons, and now saying hey, we're successful, our populations dropping.  I can guarantee you there are not any communities in Michigan who think success looks like you're closing their biggest employer.  And that was the message that we have had to deliver.  I've delivered that message personally in many communities in the state.  The politics of that are very difficult.  I have faced employees on picket lines whose prison was closing and whose jobs were being eliminated who would have a job, but perhaps an hour from where they worked.  Faced employees holding signs which read such disturbing things as blood on your hands, Jenny, referring to the Governor and talking to me about keeping with them at every minute a binder with the information on every parolee who failed and I always say to them if you're going to keep a binder on every parolee who failed, I hope you have a stack to the ceiling of the thousands who have succeeded, because we really can't talk about one without the other, because this is the ultimate human business.  Our detractors will always say the default argument is always don't do this, something bad will happen.  I'm going to give you a clue.  Something bad will happen. Something bad happens no matter what we do.  We can eliminate parole.  We can cut it in half.  We can increase it.  In my world, something bad will happen.  If we are going to structure our lives around a fear something bad will happen, we should have all stayed home today, because something bad could have happened before we got here.  Something bad might happen yet while we're here or on our way home.  We have to be strong enough and courageous enough to make policy based on what evidence tells us and what really protects people, not a fear of something bad will happen.  Interestingly, there's also been the political pushback from groups who are our natural advocates, though I think that many of the advocates have been pleased to see the cultural change in our department and the focus on success.  They are also many individuals who are frustrated by perhaps things not taking place as quickly as they would like.  Sometimes a belief that-- I often hear that we have an incentive to keep our population up because the Federal Government gives us X amount of dollars for every prisoner we have incarcerated.  That is not true.  If anyone believes that to be true that is not true, but I do hear that.  I have had people who are advocating for a smaller population tell me that we intentionally release the people we believe are the most dangerous and the most likely to fail because then we'll be able to say, "See, we told you we tried but it doesn't work."  We can go back to the good old days of a big prison system.  I will tell you those are not the good old days and if we go back to having to refill those prisons, we have failed.  Three years ago, exactly this week three years ago, we hit our highest population ever.  It was 51,554 prisoners.  Today we have 44,900 people incarcerated in Michigan.  We were down to about 1700 women.  We have reduced the population of women incarcerated in Michigan by about 30 percent, a very significant reduction in the numbers of women who are in prison in Michigan.  The issue is Michigan is length of stay.  People do a lot of time in Michigan going back to the policies I talked about whether it's because of consecutive sentencing you must complete this sentence before you finish that one.  Whether it's because of the long indeterminate sentencing we have in Michigan.  We have people doing one day to life.  Whether it's because of the fear of being accused of early release, something I hear all the time.  Parole is not early release.  We are in a system where Judges sentence you to a minimum sentence.  The max is set by statute based on the crime.  The Judge has no discretion over that.  Parole is not an early release.  Not a day goes by that I don't read about this huge early release program I'm running in the state of Michigan.  No one's getting out early.  We have no legal authority to get anyone out early.  What we have done is change our culture to focus on collaboration inside our prison, inside our communities to focus on success.  We have made a decision in the worst economy in the country to reinvest one third of our savings into the types of activities and opportunities which the evidence tells us will allow offenders to be more successful.  Additional programming in prisons, additional beds in our communities for those who need some kind of residential treatment, additional tethers, GPS tethers where the parole board feels comfortable with someone outside of prison if they have that resource.  We've hired two hundred additional agents in the last year.  So, we're reinvesting our money, something other states are not doing.  We are trying to focus on what really makes people safer and making decisions based on risk not making decisions just based on emotion or based on fear and especially fear of being wrong, because as I said, something bad will happen.  These are human beings.  We're all human beings on every side of this equation.  One hundred percent of those for whom we're responsible are convicted felons and so that is what we in our business deal with every day.  People ask me every day don't you live in fear of the one bad crime.  This is a business where that is-- you're always one phone call away from that happening.  But, if we're afraid of that happening, then we're in the wrong business.  We've got to find something else to do, because I would suggest that the citizens of this state look to us to make the decisions that make them safer and I am 100 percent convinced, 100 percent convinced what we are doing in this state is making our citizens safer and our communities safer.  And as we are able to successfully reduce that population and reinvest those monies in our communities in activities and behaviors that make communities safer then we have come full circle.  I tell people frequently, it may be an opportunity that grew from crisis, but if we were today to not have ever experienced that crisis, if today Michigan wins the equivalent of the lottery and money is never going to be an issue, forever, I would not change the direction we're going, because we're going the right direction and I am convinced we're doing the right thing.  And I'm going to close my remarks with that and turn it to my fellow panelists and we'll be happy to take questions later in the presentation.  
>> Alma Wheeler Smith:  Thank you Director Caruso.  I'm Representative Alma Wheeler Smith and I'm in my fourteenth year in the Michigan legislature and I have a couple of different perspectives on MPRI.  When I started in the Senate on the Corrections Subcommittee we were in a period of let's keep them in as long as we can, maximum sentences were being served and what I learned early is that 95 percent of these folks are coming out.  And they need to come out into a community with some skills and some abilities behind them that allow them to come out safely.  And at that point in time and when I was in the Senate it was in the mid and late 90's, we were not doing a lot of rehabilitation and prisoners were not coming out with the skills, the training or the education that they needed to turn things around for themselves and their families when they entered they community.  And one day as I was serving on the-- when I served on the County Commission the sheriff of Washtenaw County came to me and looked me dead in the eye and said, "I am not the mental health institution for the state of Michigan."  And I thought, what is he talking about.  And so he went on to elaborate.  He said you know, almost a third of the people that I'm seeing in the county jail have mental health issues and we are incarcerating them instead of putting them into a health facility where they can get the real help that they need.  Yes, they've committed crimes.  Yes our fellow citizens have called and said, "There's this guy and I feel threatened because he's walking around my house muttering and you have to do something about him."  So, he ends up in jail.  After a number of those arrests and after a number of incidents, sometimes assaultive, they would end up in the prison system of the state of Michigan with no mental health help.  We were incarcerating for a long time as the Director pointed out.  And it wasn't doing us any good.  We would return people with mental health problems back to the streets of their communities without any backup.  The MPRI program started out in the community, at release.  And some of us would argue that that was the wrong point.  We should have started with the intake and worked people through, but as the director pointed out we were in an economic crunch and we needed to deal with the people who were coming out.  We needed to make sure that they had an opportunity for employment, for housing and for healthcare and MPRI was designed in its pilot phases to have some community or each of the five communities address certain issues that they thought were key to their communities.  Some took on healthcare.  Some took on housing and others took on employment.  Let's see what happens if we can tackle a specific area of need for the returning population.  The evidence base that we've garnered over the last few years when MPRI has been in place has show that it really is a combination of all three working in each community and we are trying to get a program together that actually has those three threads at work as we try to weave a safety net for people who are returning to the community.  The-- yes people are going to fail when they come out.  Prior to MPRI we had some spectacular failures of our parolees.  And they were headline issues.  I was on the school board in the Southline Community School District and we had three young people murdered in Oakland County by a parolee.  That was a tragedy for the community, but it was something that could not have been foreseen by the parole board, certainly was addressed as quickly as possible but the legislatures response was a lack of understanding of the fact that we are, in fact, dealing with human beings and that there will be a spectacular failure, which becomes an anecdotal reason that we wrap public policy around.  So, we took that once incident and all parole stopped.  It was a fascinating look at the line that the department will often show us of how paroles went up and then suddenly there's a plunge.  Well, when you see that plunge, there was one anecdotal incident and there you go; no parole is happening.  And then finally the parole board gains a little courage and the legislature backs off a bit and you see the parole rate go back up.  We can't in good conscience and in good public policy approach our issues and our policy with an anecdotal incident that makes us respond with lasting policy changes that have done very little for public safety, but a whole lot for increasing the cost of the prison system in the state of Michigan.  I would like to tell you I remember when the population was 7000, but I don't.  I started working when the population was probably at about 15,000.  And we have seen a dramatic increase because of policy decisions that were made on length of sentence and the fact that we wanted to punish.  We were tough on crime and we had to be tougher than our neighboring states.  Michigan has the long-- the more difficult sentencing guidelines in the country.  And we really are not flexible about what we do.  Our parole board, as the director pointed out, has been given some confidence in the decisions they make because we have some evidence based instruments in the system at use so that they can look at what the prisoner has done in the way of programming and education while in the system, whether or not they can be successful on the outside by the coping skills that they've learned on the inside and that they're able to demonstrate.  But we have to change the policy that is behind the length of sentence and we have in the last few years begun an effort to look at the sentencing guidelines and reexamine them and make a decision, Senate and House, on whether or not adjustments can be made in those sentencing guidelines.  We're not finding great success in that area.  So, we look at another approach.  You know do we offer good time for prisoners?  We canceled that out and with it went a couple of good programs, but canceling out good time meant that people were unable to get out early.  They could only get out past their minimum release date.  So, we were holding people longer yet again.  The change that we're looking for in the good time or 85 percent minimum would let us release more prisoners from the system.  Prisoners are safer to be released, safer for public safety because they pose less of a risk then those who are past their earliest release date who have been held in the system, rejected by the parole board one to four times, but are still beyond their earliest release date and become those individuals that we tell the department you have to look at to find that next release cohort from.  And the department would have a lot more success for the community and for public safety if they could look at who are at 85 percent of their minimum, but the comeback is we have truth in sentencing here in Michigan.  Well, there are a whole lot of states every state in the state, in the country has truth in sentencing.  But what we find is that Michigan is truthful at 100 percent and 36, I believe, other states are truthful at 85 percent, and the Federal Government is truthful at 85 percent.  It becomes a rhetorical question of what is truth and truth is what you tell people it is.  And if we tell people truth is 85 percent of a sentence, then that you know should fulfill the rhetorical question of what is truth in sentencing.  We had challenging economics that began this process toward the Michigan prisoner reentry initiative and then we were hit with Calamity Jane in terms of a national collapse in the economy, which exacerbated where we are and how quickly we are looking at changes in public policy.  But, we aren't changing in haste to create a more dangerous climate for the citizens in the community.  We are acting again with what we believed was good evidence based information that lets us make decisions on who can leave the system and who can stay in longer.  The more confidence we can give our parole board in making that decision is certainly helpful to the outcome.  So, we have increased the use of GPS systems and we have gone from GPS that is not real time to real time GPS so that our parole agents have the opportunity to see exactly where somebody is and at any moment in time to know when they are violating boundaries that are put around people that they should never see, never talk to and that has given the parole board and the communities a lot more confidence in who is in the community.  The MPRI program has certainly created challenges for communities that have facilities.  As the director pointed out, we assign some facilities to certain communities and then others were you know begging us to take them for jobs.  I was with the Director when we were closing a camp in the UP and then went with one of my colleagues on a tour of the prisons in the UP and the hostility that I encountered on that, the early prison section we did three.  It was interesting because we were sure they were there to announce a closure.  And we finally allayed that concern and said, "No, we're here to see how you're working with MPRI, how it's working for you, what kinds of changes you think we need to make." There are some changes I would still like to see in MPRI and one of them is having a recommendation come from the people in the prison system who work closely with the prisoners.  I think the guards and the social workers and the medical staff are key components of the time in prison that people spend and certainly have an opportunity to recognize who is ready to be released and who should probably never be released, and to make that recommendation to the parole board.  How that's done to protect their privacy so that they're not creating a hostile environment for their own workplaces.  This is a discussion I will have with the Director, but there a number of things I think we can continue to do and we will continue to work on as we move through our phase of the last budget process for me, hopefully not for Representative Proos.
>> John Proos:  Thank you for that endorsement. [Laughter] I'm John Proos, State Representative from Michigan's great southwest.  For those of you who weren't aware, I-94 doesn't end at about exit 75.  It keeps going all the way to the border and along Lake Michigan and along the border of Indiana too.  So, I have the good fortune of living in the great southwest and can take this discussion any number of ways.  You've been given a very good overview obviously from the director and Jeff, thank you for inviting us and the good folks at Gerald R. Ford School.  It's great to be here as a great Spartan grad also, so I appreciate that very much.  We did joke Peter and I on the way in and he says, "Boy, this is the time to be here at the University of Michigan during the final four", right.  Isn't that what you said?  Exactly. [Laughter] And we commented, we commented and we're not quite sure what time the [Inaudible comment] that's exactly right. 
>> [Inaudible background comment]
>> John Proos:  That's right.  Did you like that? That's how legislatures put it in the reporter's mouth.  We can take it in any number of ways the discussion.  I think what I'll do is provide a perspective that I have being in my third and final term in the House of Representatives and having spent now three years and my fourth year with Representative Smith as my chairman on the appropriations subcommittee for corrections and I made the comment earlier today, we were all together, the Director and many of the folks from the department as it related to looking at the sentence passed version of the budget and beginning the work that Alma just mentioned. We're beginning now in the House of Representatives based upon the budget itself and joking said, "We took in a lot of information today.  It's like drinking through a fire hose with the depth and the breadth of this particular budget, the two billion dollar budget or just under the two billion dollar budget that we have.  Because it is so complicated from my perspective as a legislator I came in to this budget in the very early days of MPRI's roll out, which at that point was just simply a pilot program; a pilot program in eight counties.  My home county of Berrien was one of those counties that was participating in it and was encouraged by the early wrap around services.  You know Berrien County has-- has several communities that bring an awful lot of folks back to our home communities after they've served time in prison and one of the early lessons I learned is, is that we in aggregate parole or release the entire population of our prison system about every three years or thereabout I think is how the numbers go and as Alma had said, 95 percent get out. We're going to have them back in our community.  So, the question is what are we doing to insure the level of public safety we would like to see and what are we doing to insure that it isn't just a bus ticket home and good luck, but how can we make sure that those folks are given the best services possible.  What that has done in a couple of different ways in our local communities is create some partnerships with agencies and providers who can assist in that process.  What a novel concept. It's great that we're doing that.  I think community corrections was probably envisioned to be that in the previous days, when community corrections was something different than what it is today.  But the challenge that has come from that though is that in this era of declining revenues yet increasing responsibilities and goals and objectives to take care of folks in our communities who are finding themselves in hard times.  That cost shift has impacted our local providers pretty significantly as they tried to assist the department and the parole board when they send folks back to our communities in those wrap around services.  Alma and I just today, in fact, after we finished the hearing spent a few moments quietly after the reporters jumped us and we discussed a couple of those challenges in our communities.  Transportation is one of the first challenges, of course, that many communities face.  Unlike some of our larger urban areas I live in more of a rural area if you had to call it that, and we don't have very good transportation services available to folks who don't have driver's licenses and can't drive, or they don't have access to vehicles.  And then when talking today with or in this past couple of months with the Director of the Michigan works agency that has Berrien, Cass and Van Buren, southwest Michigan area and is a very good supporter of MPRI provides many of the services for those particular individuals coming back to our community, when they do come back helping them to achieve a skill level necessary to even enter the workforce again.  He is finding that of the 511 current numbers of parolees in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren County, he is able to place only about 10 percent in jobs.  Now, when MPRI was a pilot in Berrien County he was placing anywhere between 50 and 60 percent he said, and any number of reasons why the 30, to 40 to 50 percent were not being placed.  But we're at a time right now where we know that there is a glut of employees with certain degrees of talent.  Those folks who are unemployed today are competing now for those jobs and competing pretty fiercely for those jobs and at the same time we're finding ourselves with many more people coming out of our prison system with felony convictions and now seeking those jobs.  And also, it takes a pretty courageous employer these days to decide that they'd take an MPRI individual or an individual who, in fact, is coming out of our prison system. So, we're facing many significant challenges and I think threats.  I think a threat that also exists, which is why Alma and I worked very closely to inform our incoming freshman representatives of what MPRI was and is and is it continues to become a part of our community operations in all of our counties, all 83 counties we worked closely together to try with-- with our friends at Public Policy Associates to insure that we get some information to them, because in term limits folks, people are turning over all the time. They don't have nearly the same information or understanding of what it is that's happening in our communities and what's happening in the Department of Corrections.  I'll remind you even after three full years I'm just barely dangerous enough to understand what's going on.  And that has shifted almost entirely the public policy debate in our legislature making it all the more difficult for representative Smith and others to pursue the policy discussion as it relates to good time, because it's very easy to just simply take the sound bite of you mean to tell me ten years isn't ten years.  I'm going to run into him in the grocery store in three-- in seven years or seven and a half years.  And there is a very strong push on the prosecutors of Michigan to say, "Absolutely not.  We're not going to overturn good time."  Why would we do that and then tell our victims and victim's families, sorry that isn't the truth.  And as Alma said, "The truth is what we tell them."  Well, at this point we're telling them ten years if that is, in fact, the minimum sentence.  So we find ourselves really with an educational process for all of the new representatives and senators who make these public policy decisions.  So, I give a great deal of credit to the department for working in this very challenging time. This is one department of many obviously in the state that has an awful lot to deal with, but we can come at this from a very succinct and direct position that we agree on wholeheartedly regardless of republican or democrat, which is how can we make sure that-- that the services that are provided, whether in the prison or outside of the prison allow for the best opportunities for public safety and for the success of that person coming back into our community as a citizen contributing to the benefits that our state provides.  Clearly, those are the goals and objectives that the Department of Corrections has and that we have as public policy makers.  The hope and goal would be that we continue to educate our colleagues about how we can get to the end of that process with success, and it's not going to be an easy situation.  In particular, the greatest threat is exactly what both Director Caruso and Representative Smith just said, "There will be a bad thing that happens" and it will likely point to a parolee and quite possibly a parolee on MPRI.  And when that happens the contraction in the legislature is likely to make it even more challenging from a public policy perspective, which is why the education is so critical today.  So, I'll leave it at that point and I'm sure the questions will lead us in many new directions and it's great to be on the panel and be here today.  Thank you. 
>> Peter Luke:  The State Senator seat that John wants to-- is running for this year, Harry Gast, from Saint Joe's said, "In 1988 that prison costs were eating us alive."  Harry was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee at that point and in 1986 the Department of Corrections budget was 389 million and in the budget he was dealing with in FY 89 it had grown to 633 million.  And we all know now it's a billion nine.  In terms of the media's role in all of that, there is an axiom in journalism, particularly in the assignment desk at TV stations, particularly in Detroit, if it bleeds, it leads.  And crime stories have a real hold on the public's imagination in a lot of ways and obviously ratings grabbers.  Another kind of journalism is, you know, what do you put in the lead?  Who, what, when, where, how and why.  Most crime stories don't have a why to them.  A lot of bad things happen.  If there is a why or if a why can be implied to a story that story has legs.  So, why did a crime occur?  Well a perpetrator committed it, but how was he allowed to commit it?  Well, he was let out of prison early through a special program.  Well, that turns a story into something more than just a crime, but bureaucratic culpability, it allows journalism to lay blame to explain why something happened in a case, when they otherwise couldn't.  And there have been, you can look at those specific stories and what-- what that has done to the state budget.  It's-- I think that explains billions in costs over the last 30 years going back to 1984 when I think one or two parolees murdered a Meridian township police officer and an East Lansing woman that was in the Blanch administration and that set off a huge wave of prison construction.  In 1992 Leslie Allen Williams murdered four girls and that set off another round of construction and that's how we got to a prison population of 51,000.  We not only denied parole but we built a lot of prisons in the state.  And I think what-- what happened in that case was at the time of the Williams' case Michigan's economy was growing.  We wound up with 3 point 8 percent unemployment rate by 1999, if you can imagine that right now.  And so, you general fund revenue was growing at about 8 percent a year.  And so, I think the state could afford to build prisons.  It could afford to keep prison-- prisoners in prison longer and still provide state aid to municipalities, a reasonable amount of state aid to universities, K-12 education and the like.  In fact, I asked then Governor Engler in his third term what he would-- thought of the prospect that correction spending would ever exceed the amount of money the state spends on-- state aid to higher education as California had done in the last 90's and we said, "Oh, that'd be terrible."  Well, as we found out in the decade of the 2000's when the economy-- when we began shedding what will probably be about 869-900,000 jobs this decade, everything got cut but prisons.  You know you look at what's the cost situation here and now compared to 2000?  It's obviously higher.  You know municipalities claim they've been shorted 3 billion dollars in statutory revenue sharing payments over the course of that decade.  We're down 2000 law enforcement personnel across the state and I think an interesting thing happened and it was probably in 2007 and I think that was kind of a sea change.  The budget shut down-- the state shut down for the first time and they raised taxes and that fall they raised taxes on business by 700 million dollars to the new Michigan business tax.  And I think what's happened since then is that the business community has become engaged and there was a second point of view to you know prison quote unquote "reform."  In the past any attempts to shave the prison population or make policy changes was basically shut down because those you know legislators properly feared that a bad outcome would be harmful to their political careers.  And now what you're seeing is that the business community is playing an active role in saying that a 50 thousand plus prison population in the midwest state where the midwest average is closer-- in the low 30 thousands was simply economically unsustainable.  And so you have-- you know you have hearings now in Lansing where they're talking about you know presumption of parole at 100 percent.  Senate republicans want to apply that to new inmates only.  The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce testifies now you have to apply it to all prisoners.  So, I think that editorial boards are much more inclined to support policies like the MPRI.   And I think its, the problem right now is that it's subject to the next bad case in a lot of ways and in part because the administration hasn't explained the policy.  And I think one of the things they need-- I think the public is prepared to accept that-- if you polled people and say, ask them, "Should the mentally ill be in prison?" They'd probably say no.  Should parolees-- is it better for a parolee to be able to read or not to read, and they would probably say, "Yea, it's a good thing that they know how to read."  So, I think if you break it up into different parts I think there's broad public support you know for policies like the MPRI.  I think one of the issues is that in the case of term limits its going to be subject to change by a next administration.  You know, that's one of the issues involving the parole policies.  Right now it's-- it's executive decision making that the next governor could rescind as the previous governor did by you know certain parole board policy changes.  You know I think some of that needs to be put in a statute.  And, you know I think one of the things that you know that the public needs to be kind of made aware that it's kind of like a holistic system and prisons aren't much different than any other kinds of institutions.  You know almost educational-- they are educational institutions.  You know you go in a prison, you'll learn a lot of new things.  And you'll-- you'll learn how to do better the things that got you in there in the first place.  So, I think if you explain to the public well, what are we doing here?  What are we doing with this program?  What are we doing in prison?  We're essentially remediating the failures.  It's failures of siting in general.  And, you know if you did another poll you'd say, "Should the drop out age be 16 or 18."  I think most people would say 18.  And so I think the public understands that you know a minimum of a high school education is a good thing.  And so if a kid doesn't have that, it should be provided some how.  You know job skills, you know all that stuff.  You know its interesting that if you-- there's that number.  It works across purposes.  We talked about the mentally ill in prison and the Department of Community Health budget that the Senate passed last week contains a 53 million dollar cut to nonmedicate community mental services.  So, when people involved in the MPRI process come out of prison and through that process, you know are they going to be able to get mental health treatment?  Are they going to be able to get job training?  And so, I think unless it is kind of-- a sustained effort is made to educate the public as to what this is, not only that saves money but it will keep you safer, the better.  Because I think that you know a new Governor is probably most vulnerable in their first 18 months, 2 years in office and that's when the perception of them is largely set.  And so, you know if something does bad happen, you know the next governor and the next legislature is going to be really inclined to close the doors.  And, you know what they don't-- they don't have to build prisons you know, because they've got lots of empty prisons out there to refill.  But I think there is a sea change and you know I think the business community understands that they're never going to get a tax cut unless they figure out a way to reduce you know the cost of government and the rest of the cost of government has been shaved down so much in the last decade that prisons are really the only place you can look at.  
>> Tom Ivako:  Okay, well let's thank our panel for their comments. [Applause] Thank you to the panel.  And Representative Alma Wheeler Smith has a-- a command performance as you all know in this town.  Representative Smith is running for Governor.  And she is about to head off to an endorsement meeting.
>> Alma Wheeler Smith:  Yes.
>> Tom Ivako:  So, we wish you well with that.  
>> Alma Wheeler Smith:  I do apologize.  Thank you John.  
>> John Proos:  No problem.
>> Alma Wheeler Smith:  Appreciate it. [Applause] 
>> Tom Ivako: We have about 20 minutes left. 
^M00:58:54 [ Inaudible background discussion ] ^M00:59:06
>> Tom Ivako:  Thank you.  And thank you for participating.
>> Alma Wheeler Smith:  Thank you.  
>> Tom Ivako: Representative Andy Kandrevas, there he is.  Andy, Freshman legislator from my neck of the woods, represents part of the district I represented in ancient times.  Thank you for being part of this.  And we may turn to you as-- as these-- if there's a question you want to deflect John.
>> John Proos:  Absolutely.
Tom Ivako:  Feel free.  
>> John Proos:  Absolutely. [Laughter] Kandrevas is great, he'll take care of it for all of us. 
>> Tom Ivako: We do have about 20 minutes to go and we have a stack of questions here.  If anybody else has a question write it down on a card and pass it to the edge and Bonnie will pick it up and bring it down to me.  And so to the panelists I'll ask that you try to be reasonably succinct in your answers, be complete but succinct so that we can get through as many of these as possible.  Let's-- let's start with this.  This is a pretty profound question.  The questioner says, "Our state's prosecutors seem obsessed with confinement and fear any action which reduces our state's prison population.  That being the case, what chance do any of us have, us broadly speaking, to affect policy change in this direction?"  And we'll throw that to Pat first.
>> Pat Caruso:  I'll start on that.  I guess-- I don't agree that they are obsessed with it.  In fact, we have many prosecutors who are actively involved at the community level with our reentry work who have been fabulous to work with in terms of looking at policies within their own communities.  But it is fair to say that prosecutors have a different role in the system. Their job is on the front end.  They deal with prosecuting people, sending them to prison so you're dealing with a different piece of that.  And-- and I think part of it is, excuse me, prosecutors like many others you know run for their jobs every four years on a partisan basis and they're subject to the-- the feelings and the sense from their communities and those prosecutors who feel they have the support of their community and the ability to stand up and not have to spout a certain rhetoric will do that and you see that happen from many of our-- our longer term prosecutors.  Those who come from a community where they may not feel they can do that aren't, because that's the process.  They're representing the people and their community.  But, I mean I deal with prosecutors a lot as a group, have a very good relationship with them and as-- as a group I know they support much of what we're doing.  In fact, their association testified in support of the legislation which is looking at capping sentences at 120 percent with the presumption of parole at 100 percent.  They support that package.  
>> I think Peter said it best.  It's a matter of eduction in the communities and right now if the public's perception is one thing of what MPRI is or perhaps there is no perception of what MPRI then the prosecutors really have no need to educate the public about it.  That's not their role in the process as the director says.  She's absolutely right about that, and they run for office.  So, if there isn't a direct impact locally with-- with the public perception of the successes or perhaps the pitfalls that need additional assistance in the local community to provide transportation let's say in the communities in Benton Harbor, Southwest Michigan, Coloma Watervliet, where I represent then the prosecutor really doesn't have a  whole lot of need nor cause to want to try to push that along if you will.  That's not to say that prosecutor Cotter in this case isn't interested in seeing success with MPRI.  In fact, he is and is very closely allied with the sheriff of Berrien County, Paul Bailey, who is very interested in the success of that program and also has concerns, which may come up in our conversation today, but I think Peter said it best, it's a matter of education in the local communities [Audio cuts off] on his behalf.  That's much more on the side of those of us on the backside of it if you will, the public policy side and the corrections parole side.  
>> Peter Luke:  I think some of the objections really are-- fall on the whole issue of accelerated parole and [Audio cuts off] and the whole idea was to get that down to a range between 100 and 200.  I think the prosecutors are-- get concerned about specific cases.  But what's their alternative?  Are they saying, "Well, no we should keep them in-- in broadly speaking 150 percent of their-- of their minimum, 175 percent.  So, I think form a policy standpoint they really haven't articulated that.  I think most of them do agree that you know it doesn't you know make much sense to keep somebody in you know for years longer than they need to be.  But, I think under the old policies that did make their life easier you know.  I mean when people weren't getting out you know they were probably pretty happy about that.  And so any change-- any change to that you know is going-- is going to raise alarm bells.
>> And the role of the prosecutors in play has certainly been one of the central elements of politics at the MPRI in a variety of ways, both positive and negative.  Let's move on to another question.  If the MPRI leads to fewer prisoners, which means fewer prisons and fewer prison jobs, how do you get buy-in from corrections employees and let's hear from Pat Caruso on that.
>> Pat Caruso:  Well, that-- that certainly is a challenge and I challenge our employees.  I say to our employees, "We do not incarcerate people to provide jobs."  And it is very difficult for corrections employees if you are a prison based corrections employee.  We have grown on the field side.  If you look at where the increases have been in our budget and our operations, we have 33 percent increase on the field side and we've hired more agents and we've put more money into the community.  But, if you are someone who came out of the prisons, which I did until I was the director, I only worked in the prison system in our department.  You're very committed to that and you believe because you were always told that.  I mean that's-- people are in there forever and then the longer you stay the more likely the community is to be safe and so that is an education process in our part and its something that we have undertaken, internally our department where we talk about this all the time.  We have formalized it into training with our employees. We want them to see the same facts and statistics and evidence that we give to the legislators and to the public.  Things like, the research shows that there's no correlation between length of stay and likelihood of reoffense.  Staying an extra year or two doesn't make you likely to succeed.  Things like, there's not a correlation between misconduct in prison and we're talking about not serious misconduct, like serious assault.  But, the run of the mill misconducts we write like out of place and disobeying a direct order, there's not any correlation between that and success on parole.  Our employees need to know that.  Many of employees get this.  I have employees contact me, particularly correction officers all the time saying, "Here's someone the parole board ought to be looking at.  He or she is a waste of my tax dollars.  I wouldn't care if they lived next door to me."  I do here that frequently.  
>> As a follow up question you talk about how you educate employees in the department and there's been a huge effort along those lines.  What about the reward system?  Do people who understand and embrace the MPRI find themselves more likely to be promoted and have successful careers in corrections these days or is it neutral in that respect?
>> Pat Caruso:  I remember quite a few years ago it was probably at least six years ago employees saying exactly that to me because I mean any smart person if you work in a business you look at what the bottom line of that business is and what the mission is.  And you understand where the future is and certainly the future in our department for several years has been revolving around reentry, which I refer to as get out and stay out.  And those people who were able to conceptualize that and operationalize it in what they do clearly have been more successful in our department.  
>> Okay so they look at the direction of the department [Audio cuts off] helping the MPRI succeed.
>> Pat Caruso:  We have had many corrections officers and other prison employees who have transitioned on to the field side because they see that as the future, not just because their prison was closing but because they saw that as something that was rewarding in the future of corrections in Michigan.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Okay, let's turn to Representative Proos.  How can we engage more republican legislators to support policies that are supportive to prisoners and former offenders?  Now there's obviously an assumption behind that. Is it--
>> John Proos:  Well we're all absolutely against MPRI.  We proved that already right? [Laughter] 
>> Jeffrey Padden:  What is your sense about how your caucus views the MPRI relative to the democratic caucus?  Is this beyond just you and Representative Smith a partisan issue or not?
>> John Proos:  I think it's probably less partisan like most everything else in the legislative process.  It's much less partisan than what you read on the front page of the newspaper.  I think Peter did a good job of identify that sensationalism is what leads if you will and the sensational arguments that we have over budgets and shutdowns and things like that lead the news stories and legitimately so, and are there tensions, absolutely.  Are there tensions as it relates to good discussions about issues like this and certainly there are.  I come at it from the perspective that education is the key to it.  And certainly I asked an awful lot of questions of the Director of the department of one of my colleagues.  It was mentioned that the prosecutors have challenges with some of the discussion today, good time legislation and so forth.  If we educate our colleagues about the impact, the benefits-- the cost benefit analysis and trying our best to understand what a compass analysis of a prisoner is.  What does that work?  What does that mean?  It's mainly from a perspective of-- and I said in my opening statements too Jeff, if we don't educate ourselves of it, it's easier to take the perspective, no thank you, keep em all in.  And term limits has had an impact on that and that's not the purpose of today's debate, but I'm suggesting to all of us who are dealing with this particular issue that if-- that if legislators are coming in in the droves that they do because of term limits, they won't have near the same understanding of it.  
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Okay to Peter Luke, Peter I think you said that the administration hasn't explained the policy very effectively to the public in general.  Did I hear you right?
>> Peter Luke:  No, I don't think they have and I was thinking about it that maybe we shouldn't call these policies anything.  Maybe we should just kind of slowly shift direction and because if you have a situation where you release-- say the legislature enacts a program where instead of serving 100 percent of your sentence if you behave behind bars, well you'll serve 85 percent of your minimum.  Well if somebody in that cohort goes out again and does something wrong, that policy will be blamed.  And it seems to me none of that takes you know statutory change, so you can't do that under the radar.  But, I think with MPRI you know I think hopefully they can gradually just bake all this stuff into-- into the system and so it isn't seen like a stand alone policy, but it's more a can do well food, clothing, healthcare.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Okay, well in terms of helping to build a base of public understanding, you know an event like this might help.  But, but what is the right strategy for the department of corrections and the legislature and the governor's office to employ, to connect with the mass medial to get the message out to the public?  
>> Peter Luke:  You know if you had a prison population that it was about the midwest average, you know tuition at the University of Michigan wouldn't be 11,000 for undergrad, it might be 8,000, right.  Anybody want 3,000 dollars, you know.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  I think all the folks in this room are on scholarships, so it may not be a--
>> John Proos:  Depends on whose running for the legislature, that's a great argument.
>> Peter Luke:  But you know you can't, or do you want a tax cut or do you want-- you know anything you want out of the budget, there's a fixed cost to everything.  And you know is there a level of altruism in the community. But, I think you can take it at another level.  If you look at a community like Detroit right, everybody talks about you know-- most everybody here isn't going to be a crime victim.  But if you live in the city of Detroit, there's a much better chance that you're going to become a victim of crime or you know if you live in Flint or Saginaw.  You know you look at Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac and another one.  I mean probably Detroit, they all have nationally really extremely high crime rates.  And so from just a recidivism standpoint, if somebody's less likely to come out and commit a crime I think that's how you sell it.  You know like Alma said, you're going to get, everybody's going to get out, right.  So, what kind of person are you letting out?  If you can make the case we're letting out a better person right, then they should support that.  
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Alright, well it's very easy to imagine.  In fact, you don't have to imagine it.  You can read it in the papers, those stories of the horrendous crimes committed by parolees. It's very easy to point to an individual who committed a crime against another individual and tell that story in the most vivid terms.  How do you tell the story about a crime that didn't happen?  And there have now been hundreds or possibly thousands of crimes that would have happened if not the MPRI that did not take place.  So, can you tell a story through the media that says last night at 8:00 p.m. when Peter Luke drove into his driveway he got out of his car, went into his house and was not mugged?  How do you make that a news story?
>> Peter Luke:  Well, it's hard you know.  I mean you-- you can take a specific example of you know and a human interest story a guy gets out of prison and you know he gets his associate's degree and now he's working at-- at a car dealer.  
>> Jeffrey Padden:  That's not a story.
>> But that makes it about the prisoner and doesn't make it about the victim who turned out not to be the victim.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  That's a sign that the legislature is working together isn't it?
>> John Proos:  I mean people want the sensationalism to some degree.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  So I think that's one of the challenges that's faced in telling the story powerfully and publically.  We're saying that the public is safer but are you as an individual safer?  How do you know that you're safer then you would have been otherwise?  It's a challenge that just sits out there.  I do want to go back to Pat Caruso.  Pat you made a passing comment about the prison industrial complex and that the notion of maintaining a large prison population simply to keep jobs is a moral issue.  Now we did have a question from somebody that went right to that point.  Is it cheaper for the state to house someone in prison or to potentially be adding them to the welfare roles and pick up the bill on any negative externalities that may result?  You know we're turning people loose into a bad economy.  Well, you know why should they get the jobs instead of the folks who haven't committed a crime?  Talk about how that's a moral issue.
>> Pat Caruso:  Well clearly there is a lot of moral issues surrounding this.  You know, do we-- do we keep people in prison who are otherwise good candidates for parole because they don't have a job.  You know, do we-- we're not running the poor house.  It's so-- there are all kinds of issues there.  Do we keep people in prison, because if we don't keep them in prison the prison will close and people will lose their jobs?  I mean there's issues that revolve around that, but the fact is that when we spend so much money to run a massive prison system, there are dollars that would otherwise go into our economy that would be creating jobs for other people, would be reducing the cost of tuition, would be all sorts of things out there and its something we have to face.  And I mean if there are people who need to be in prison until the day they die, then they ought to be in prison until the day they die.  But, it's-- it's a smaller number.  There's a comment that I am widely credited with having made.  It's known around the country.  I actually stole this but I'm going to say it anyway, and that is that we need to decide who we are mad at and who we are afraid of and that prison beds ought to be saved for those individuals we are afraid of, and not those we are mad at.  And there may be people who went to prison and we were rightfully afraid of them, but over a period of years changes have occurred in them and now we're just made at them.  We have a lot of people in prison in this country and in this state and who stay in prison because we're mad at them.  If we're willing to pay an average in Michigan of 32,000 dollars a year to be mad at people, I don't know that that makes very good economic sense.  And I don't think it makes good moral sense either.  
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Now we only have a few minutes.  It's 5:26 and we finish at 5:30, so this will be the lightening round and I'll start with a really hard question.  What role does mental illness play in the rate of recidivism and how does the MPRI address that?  And I'll make that a toss up and John or Pat can grab it.  
>> Pat Caruso:  I probably should just grab it.
>> John Proos:  It's significant, I know that.  I know that.  It is very significant and I think that's one of the significant challenges we face is getting our arms around how we address that population and the same can be said for drug-- drug offenders, drug courts and there's an attempt to do that plus some in-reach mental health and drug-- addressing some of the drug concerns that we have in the prison system.
>> Pat Caruso:  Representative Proos is right.  Our inability to come to terms with these issues in our communities results in many people coming to prison who otherwise would not have.  If you look at mental illness, the ability to access care through local community health boards based on what the laws say, the inability to do that results in behaviors that land people in prison.  When you're in prison there actually is a mental health system.  It's not a good place to access that, but there is a system that's structured at getting people back out into that is a challenge. I will say one are where reentry has really succeeded are the numbers that deal with individuals formally incarcerated, mentally ill who have transitioned successfully back to the community.  It's probably one of our highest success rates that we've seen.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Another quick question.  Doesn't earned time or time off for good behavior or for doing positive things in prison and the MPRI go hand in hand, if so, how do they fit together?
>> John Proos:  Earned time is a debate that has not been flushed out nearly as well as it should be at this point in time.  It's been easy to have an encampment and it's probably pretty fair to say it's a republican encampment and a democratic encampment at this point in time.  And the argument has been that earned time is-- is the best way for us to reduce the cost in our prison system because we'll be letting a lot of people out that should go out or get out at 85 percent or there abouts.  I would say, and in fact, it's partially discussed today, but that debate has not been well fleshed out at this point in time.  I suspect that we're going to continue to try to thread together how a good time would be successful for an MPRI.  But remember, we're dealing with the community and other interest groups that may not have as much knowledge about what MPRI is doing both successfully moving forward and I'd caution if I could just briefly.  We have to also make sure that we decide what it is that we're using as the numbers to identify success or failure or a modicum of success for MPRI and right now I don't know that there's a good understanding of what success is termed to be.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Well it depends on what you earned time for.  If you earned time for not misbehaving that's one thing.  If you earned time for you know a GED, an Associate's Degree any kinds of benchmarks that MPRI, you know you need to hit in order to be successful, I think they fit together perfectly well. 
>> Pat Caruso:  I agree.  I think they do too.  And one of the things that we sometimes forget is that the concept doesn't automatically get anyone out of prison.  What it does is make people eligible to be seen by the parole board in an earlier date.  So, if someone is, in fact, a low risk person who is a likely candidate for success in the community, then the parole board is able to parole them sooner then they would otherwise be able to.
>> Jeffrey Padden:  Very good.  Well, I apologize to those of you who posed questions that we did not have a chance to address, but we are out of time and I want to be respectful of your time, the time of the panel and not to mention the wonderful crew who have been covering this.  I do want to thank the Center for Local State and Urban Policy and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the University of Michigan for hosting this-- this wonderful event and especially I want to thank Director Pat Caruso, Representative John Proos, our wonderful reporter Peter Luke and Representative Alma Wheeler Smith for participating as panelists, and please thank them once again. [Applause]