Mass incarceration and the kids left behind

Losing a parent to incarceration can be very traumatic for children. Not understanding why a parent is gone and can’t come home, wondering why he or she might be far away, being frustrated because frequent visits might not be possible all while the other parent undergoes tremendous financial and emotional stress.

In Michigan at least 1 in 10 children has been impacted by parental incarceration. This is one of the highest rates in the country—only Indiana (11%) and Kentucky (13%) have higher percentages of children who have had a parent incarcerated. As a result of mass incarceration and the “tough on crime” movement many children and families have been left behind in communities without adequate support and resources. (more…)

House and Senate Approve Corrections FY 2015 Budget

Full Report in PDF

Both the House and Senate have approved their versions of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the Department of Corrections, and differences between the bills will now be resolved at a joint House/Senate conference committee.

The total DOC budget approved by the House is $2.04 billion, including $1.98 billion in state General Fund. This is a 0.1% ($2.5 million) increase in total funding, and a 0.9% ($17.2 million) increase in state General Fund dollars, compared with year-to-date funding levels as of Feb. 5, 2014.

The total DOC budget approved by the Senate is $2.03 billion, including $2.0 billion from the state General Fund. This is a 0.3% ($6.5 million) decrease in total funding, and a 0.7% ($14.5 million) increase in state General Fund dollars, compared with year-to-date funding.

The DOC budget is the fifth largest in Michigan, accounting for around 4% of total appropriations from all fund sources in the current fiscal year. When state General Fund monies are considered alone, the DOC budget is the state’s second largest, accounting for 21.3% of the General Fund.

Both the House and Senate budgets are lower than the governor’s recommendation, by $15 million and $24 million respectively. Major discrepancies include funding for a new Hepatitis C treatment program, which the governor’s budget includes but the House and Senate budgets do not; as well as funding for two prisoner re-entry legal services pilot programs, which the House includes, but the Executive and Senate budgets do not.

Included in the DOC budgets are the following changes:

Healthy Michigan Plan

GOVERNOR:

  • Recognizes full-year savings of $19.1 million in state General Fund in Fiscal Year 2015 as a result of the implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan. Under this plan, low-income individuals ages 19-64 – who are not eligible for or enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, are not pregnant, and have incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level – qualify for comprehensive healthcare. The current year budget assumed that most prisoner inpatient hospitalizations, certain services for mentally ill and medically fragile inmates, and some re-entry services would be covered. However, it was subsequently determined that certain treatments for sex offenders and substance abuse are not eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. The executive budget acknowledges that these services are not covered by federal funds, and reinstates $5.1 million in state funds to cover the costs.

HOUSE:

  • Concurs with the governor.

SENATE:

  • Concurs with the governor.

New Hepatitis C Treatment Protocol

GOVERNOR:

  • Includes $4.9 million in new funding to implement a treatment protocol for Hepatitis C, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current treatment duration can take up to one year; includes side effects such as depression, anxiety and anemia; and is not guaranteed to cure the disease. The drugs recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration shorten the treatment period to 12 weeks, have fewer side effects, and a success rate of approximately 95%.

HOUSE:

  • Does not concur with the governor.

SENATE:

  • Includes a $100 placeholder to ensure discussion of the issue in conference committee, expressing concerns about the higher cost of the new treatment protocol.

Mental Health Diversion Council

GOVERNOR:

  • Includes $1 million in state funding for a pilot project that will connect inmates in one local jail with comprehensive mental health treatment as they transition back into the community. This funding is part of the implementation of the recommendations of the Mental Health Diversion Council created by the governor in 2013. This council is tasked with developing methods to divert individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems out of the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment.

HOUSE:

  • Concurs with the governor.

SENATE:

  • Concurs with the governor.

Prisioner Education Enhancement

GOVERNOR:

  • Includes $4.3 million General Fund (of which $1.1 million is one-time funding) to expand prisoner vocational education and prepare parolees for entry into the workforce. The added funding will be used to hire 15 additional employment counselors and five instructors. This initiative will focus on helping inmates acquire skillsets that are in demand by employers and connect inmates with employers prior to their release.

HOUSE:

  • Concurs with the governor.

SENATE:

  • Does not include this funding.

Michigan State Industries

GOVERNOR:

  • Includes $12.3 million in restricted funds to cover the administrative costs of Michigan State Industries. MSI is a DOC program that employs inmates while imprisoned. MSI’s stated goal is to give inmates an opportunity to acquire job skills and experience in preparation for their release.

HOUSE:

  • Concurs with the governor.

SENATE:

  • Reduces funding for this program by $6.2 million (50%) in restricted funds, and calls for a study of the program by December 2014.

Goodwill Flip the Script

Flip the Script is a program of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, which provides education, job training and mentoring for young males, 19-29 years old, to encourage their self-sufficiency and prevent their entry into the justice system.

GOVERNOR:

  • Does not include funding for the program, which is a new line item in the Senate budget.

HOUSE:

  • Does not include new funding.

SENATE:

  • Includes $4.5 million in state funds for Flip the Script.

Swift and Sure

The Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program is a joint project with Michigan Rehabilitation Services in the Department of Human Services, and is designed to assist mentally and physically disabled probationers find employment.

GOVERNOR:

  • Does not include new funding.

HOUSE:

  • Does not include new funding.

SENATE:

  • Includes $3 million in additional funding to expand The Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program.

Prisoner Re-entry Legal Services

Re-entry legal services is a pilot program that would assist ex-offenders with employment, housing, child support and other related matters by providing outreach, education and legal representation.

GOVERNOR:

  • Does not include funding for the program, which is a new line item in the House budget.

HOUSE:

  • Adds $449,000 in state General Fund for two pilot programs to be established in Kent and Oakland counties (the latter also serving Wayne County).

SENATE:

  • Does not include new funding.

Re-entry, Parole, Probation and Community Programs

GOVERNOR:

  • The governor recommends $311.7 million in total funding for re-entry, parole, probation and community programs, a decrease of 4.9% ($15.9 million) compared with year-to-date funding. This decrease reflects expected savings from the implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan, expected reductions in federal grants, and a transfer of funds to the Correctional Facilities Unit for the newly re-opened Detroit Detention Center.

HOUSE:

  • Includes $312.2 million for re-entry, parole, probation and community programs, a decrease of 4.7% ($15.5 million) compared with year-to-date funding.

SENATE:

  • Approves $315.5 million for re-entry, parole, probation and community programs, a decrease of 4.3% ($14.1 million) compared with year-to-date funding.

Michigan House and Senate Reach Agreement on FY 2014 Corrections Budget

 Full report in PDF

On Thursday, May 23, the joint House/Senate Conference Committee for the Department of Corrections approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The Corrections conference report was subsequently adopted by the full House of Representatives as part of HB 4328, an omnibus bill that includes the budgets for all state departments and services except higher education, community colleges and K-12 School Aid. A vote by the full Senate is expected this week. Agreements reached by joint House/Senate conference committees can be either approved or rejected by the full House and Senate, but cannot be amended on the floor.

The Conference Committee budget includes $38 million in additional funding compared to Fiscal Year 2013. The governor had recommended a Department of Corrections budget totaling $2.03 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, a 0.5% increase over the current year budget. This relatively small increase in the executive budget was in part due to the $24 million in expected savings from the expansion of Medicaid to 133% of the federal poverty line.

The Conference Committee, reflecting the Legislature’s unwillingness to extend Medicaid, did not include the $24 million in Medicaid savings. Instead, it adds $38.1 million to the Corrections budget, including $40.8 million in state General Funds, for a total of $2.06 billion in funding from all revenue sources. This is 1.9% higher than current year funding.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Governor: The governor’s budget included 100% federal funds to support the expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals up to 133% of the federal poverty level. This influx of federal revenue would increase total Medicaid funding to $12.3 billion, and result in savings in the state’s General Fund of $206 million by allowing the state to use federal funds to provide comprehensive services.

The Medicaid expansion would cover some healthcare services for an estimated 80% of prisoners and parolees under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, with expected savings in the DOC budget of $24.2 million. Although inmates do not qualify for Medicaid while incarcerated, offsite inpatient hospitalizations would qualify for reimbursements, as would substance abuse, mental health and sex offender treatment for parolees in the process of re-entry back into the community. Access to basic and preventive health and mental health services is a critical component of a successful transition back into the community and helps to lower recidivism rates. Unfortunately such access is currently limited, resulting in greater overall costs when parolees seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee did not accept the governor’s recommendation to expand Medicaid coverage to the estimated 49,500 prisoners and parolees who would qualify, and removed this projected savings of $24.2 million from the budget.

NEW EMPLOYEE TRAINING SCHOOL

Governor: The governor recommended a one-time increase of $9.03 million to train 400 additional corrections officers to meet staffing needs, bringing total spending in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to approximately $17.7 million. Funds for this program cover a range of expenses associated with the training of new officers, including salary and payroll costs for new officers during their training period, uniforms and training materials.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee concurred with the governor’s recommendation. Previously, the House and Senate had rejected the governor’s proposal in their respective budgets, citing Public Act 526 of 2012, which passed during the lameduck session last year, as the reason for this cut. PA 526 designates community colleges as alternatives to state-run academies where the training of new corrections officers would take place. It was not clear, however, that these community colleges would be ready to begin training officers in the coming academic year.

PRISONER RE-ENTRY AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Governor: The governor’s budget reduced funding for two prison re-entry and community support programs, while retaining current funding for his public safety initiative:

  • Prisoner re-entry local services providers: The governor reduced funding for local services providers from $22.7 million in the current year, to $13.8 million in 2014. This reduction was the result of anticipated savings ($377,200) from an expansion of Medicaid, as well as internal transfers ($8.5 million) of previously allocated funds that are not expected to be spent in the current fiscal year. These funds are currently available for 18 regional prisoner re-entry service providers responsible for assisting prisoners in transitioning back into their local communities after release from incarceration. Included are transitional housing support; employment training and education programs; transportation and family support services, including assistance with accessing public assistance and other services; and substance abuse and mental health services.
  • Prisoner re-entry DOC programs: The governor reduced funding for DOC prisoner re-entry programs from $23.5 million to $9.7 million. This was the result of expected Medicaid savings of $3.2 million, as well as $10.6 million in internal transfers of previously allocated funds that are not expected to be spent in the current fiscal year. These funds are used for services within prisons, including risk and needs assessments, programs to reduce offender risk, and the preparation of re-entry plans. Funds are also used for a re-entry project for offenders with special needs (medically fragile, youthful offenders or those with mental health issues), and community-based sex offender treatment programs.
  • Public safety initiative: The governor provided continuation funding ($4.75 million) for a portion of the public safety initiative he outlined in his special message to the Legislature on public safety. This funding is used by distressed communities in high-crime areas to purchase jail space in neighboring counties to avoid backlogs.

Conference Committee:

  • Prisoner re-entry DOC programs: The Conference Committee provided $12.9 million for DOC prisoner re-entry programs (up from the governor’s recommendation of $9.7 million), and $14.2 million for prisoner re-entry local service providers (up from the governor’s recommendation of $13.8 million).
  • H.I.R.E. job training: The Conference Committee added $1 million to the Corrections budget to provide funding for the “Helping Individuals Return to Employment” (H.I.R.E.) job training pilot program to be operated by Goodwill Industries. This pilot is part of the Prisoner Re-Entry and Community Support programs. It will assist parolees with disabilities entering the job market by assessing their disabilities and vocational needs, and matching them with training, placement or other employment services.
  • Public safety initiative: The Conference Committee reduced funding for this initiative by $250,000, and transferred it to the Second Chance Employment program. This program, run by Goodwill’s oil filter recycling project, places reintegrating prisoners into employment and training and prepares them for future employment opportunities.

FOOD SERVICE

Governor: The governor made no major changes in DOC food services, but recognized agreements with the Department of Human Services to cover food service at Maxey/Green Oaks Center, and with the Department of Community Health for food service at the DCH Forensic Center.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee reduced funding for food services by $6 million, the result of efforts to privatize prison food services. Originally, the Department of Corrections had rejected a bid from a private company to provide food service, claiming that it did not meet the mandated 5% minimum savings. The DOC subsequently reversed its decision and accepted a bid that, after alternative calculations, claimed to save the state 20% ($16 million) a year.