Gov. Rick Snyder has supported workforce training programs for prison inmates in the hopes they learn job skills that will make it easier for inmates to contribute positively upon release. Ex-inmate Aaron Branch, right, spent 22 years in prison before Lazlo LLC founder Christian Birky (left) hired him for his business in Detroit. (Photo by Ed Ballotts)
Michigan spends close to $2 billion a year on its prison system. That’s about 19 percent of the state general fund. That’s a lot of money from the state budget to house prisoners; money that isn’t going to things like public schools, police troopers or road repairs.
When adjusted for inflation, Michigan’s corrections spending dipped by 5 percent from 2012 to 2018, according to state data and Bridge calculations.
[Editor's Note: This is just one story in a series examining Michigan's budgets during Gov. Rick Snyder's tenure as he prepares to release his final budget proposal.]
Snyder and lawmakers have looked at the state corrections budget for years in an effort to control costs as the number of inmates has steadily fallen — from a high of 51,454 in 2006 to 41,122 in 2016, according to state data.
The Michigan Department of Corrections says the prison population dipped below 40,000 in 2017 for the first time in two decades.
Snyder has signed legislation reforming the parole system to reduce the chances of repeat offenders winding back up behind bars, and improving specialized courts that serve offenders with drug or mental health issues to focus on treatment rather than incarceration.
His administration also has invested in prisoner education programs and vocational training, including two dedicated workforce training programs in Ionia and Jackson prisons, in hopes that inmates can more successfully integrate back into society when released.
The state (under Snyder and, before him, Jennifer Granholm) has closed or merged 26 prison facilities since 2005, the department said. That has saved close to $400 million. A 1,280-bed prison in Muskegon is set to close in March, saving $18.8 million.
“Through programs such as Vocational Village, Michigan is now a model state for prison as a place to rehabilitate residents rather than just them lock up and hope for the best when they are released,” Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said via email. “The Governor would like to see another Vocational Village facility in the works before the end of his term.”
Gov. Snyder has changed how the state spends tax money
- How Gov. Snyder's budgets have allocated Michigan's tax revenue
- Snyder’s Michigan: Fewer prisoners, less prison spending
- Snyder’s Michigan: Less crime, but more funding for State Police
- Snyder’s Michigan: Budgets for executive branch and Legislature grow
- Snyder’s Michigan: Business taxes fall, burden shifts to residents
- Snyder’s Michigan: More spending, but Michigan government remains small
- Snyder’s Michigan: Doubling down on agriculture