Inmates now have a better chance of success outside of prison thanks to programs focused on self-improvement, said Chris Gautz, Michigan Department of Corrections, at the March Capitol Issues Forum “Rehabilitation & Reentry.”
Although prisoners at the Cooper Street Correctional Facility in Jackson, for example, only made up five percent of the Jackson College student body, they were 57 percent of the Dean’s List this past semester, said Gautz, who is MDOC’s public information officer. Enrolling inmates in college classes is just one example of the different rehabilitation programs that MDOC offers to probationers, parolees and prisoners.
“Our goal is to make the men better people when they leave us from how they entered the system,” Gautz said.
Successes from rehabilitation programs have decreased the prison population by approximately 10,000 inmates and have also reduced the number of repeat offenders over the last decade.
Gautz tackled some tough subjects surrounding Michigan’s corrections systems, touching on the annual amount of taxpayer dollars spent on corrections, aging prisoners and health care costs, opioid addiction and mentally ill inmates that make up 20 percent of the prison community. MDOC is taking steps to reduce correction expenditures while still focusing on rehabilitating its population.
From their first day in prison, inmates are encouraged to complete tasks that pave the way to their early release at their first parole meeting. Attending substance abuse or anger management meetings, participating in college or GED classes or vocational training are all steps the inmates can take to exit prison earlier.
At the Vocational Village in Ionia, prisoners can receive training and state certification in carpentry, plumbing, manufacturing machining, welding, automotive technology and electrical. MDOC has also partnered with housing centers and landlords to ensure that parolees have somewhere to live once they have completed their time.