Guest column: Prison savings to reach $250 million

By Daniel Heyns/Michigan Department of Corrections

I know for the past several years the Center for Michigan has been an active participant in the dialogue surrounding lowering corrections costs in Michigan. The Center facilitated the creation of the Corrections Reform Coalition -- a collection of business, education, local government and nonprofit groups focused on enhancing operations and containing costs within the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Today, I have some positive news to report to the Center and the other members of the Corrections Reform Coalition.

Since Gov. Rick Snyder took office, the MDOC has taken a number of steps that will result in $258 million in savings by the end of fiscal 2013 (Sept. 30, 2013).

Daniel Heyns is director of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Examples of some of the measures put into place are:

• Reducing and restructuring funded positions within the MDOC;

• Closing prisons that were no longer needed;

• Revising custody levels at certain correctional facilities to more appropriately match the makeup of the prisoner population;

• Reorganizing correctional health care, including savings associated with revising inmate pharmacy;

• Utilizing supply chain management initiatives and other related efficiencies;

• Reorganizing prisoner education, prisoner transportation and warehouse delivery systems;

• Moving to an electronic law library for prisoners;

• Closing parole offices and moving parole agents into the community where they should be to appropriately supervise the offenders they are responsible for;

• Consolidating prisoner mental health staff so they are all MDOC employees (previously some worked for the MDOC and some were employed by the Department of Community Health);

• Contracting with county sheriffs to house certain prisoners. This arrangement benefits both state and local government;

• Reducing the amount of clothing prisoners receive;

• Moving to random patrols of prison perimeters; and

• Putting some parameters in place for prisoner re-entry funding.

While cutting costs is important, our primary mission is creating a safer Michigan.

Early on in my tenure as director, I developed a specific plan to take additional steps toward improving offender supervision across Michigan. This plan was crafted using my 30-plus years working in local law enforcement and focused on aggressively pursuing parole absconders, increasing collaboration with law enforcement, creating additional custody bed space to allow for swift and sure sanctions for parolees and reinstituting thorough caseload audits of all parole/probation officers.

The plan is showing tremendous results.

We have decreased the number of parole fugitives by almost 18 percent since January 2011. Our increased collaboration with law enforcement has led to increased information sharing and additional arrests, and has allowed us to significantly step up compliance checks of offenders at night and on weekends. We have begun monthly inspections of all caseloads with a full audit every year, and we have repurposed the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit, which is providing hundreds of additional custody beds to house parole violators.

In addition, Michigan's recidivism rate continues to drop and is one of the lowest in the country. We were recently highlighted in a national policy brief from the Council of State Governments Justice Center for advancements in reducing recidivism. Seven states were noted in the report, with Michigan showing the largest decline.

As director, I am committed to making Michigan safer AND being fiscally responsible to the citizens of Michigan. Over the past two years, our department has enacted numerous changes which have decreased costs and increased efficiency – all while enhancing public safety.

I would like to thank the Center for Michigan and the Corrections Reform Coalition for their continued efforts on this very important issue. I know your members realize that Michigan cannot have a strong flourishing economy without ensuring the safety of our citizens.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

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Wed, 01/02/2013 - 10:41am
Nice job. We are heading in the right direction!
Patti Kintz
Sun, 01/06/2013 - 5:39pm
I know this. If this guy is a republican and I assume he is then his answer will be to take it out of the hides of employees. This is a republicans first and usually last answer. And the other thing I know is that somewhere someone is getting money from this because that is a republicans second response. Take from working people, give to people in the 1%. This is a republican value.
Tue, 01/08/2013 - 10:01am
While Director Heyns may have good intentions, the legislature does not. If you have any contact with MDOC you understand that many of the cuts have potentially endangered staff , other prisoners, and Michigan residents. What's worse, the very programs that everyone knows are most effective in reducing recidivism are being crippled by budget problems. Ms. Kintz has it right. The republican plan to privatize services is strictly a way to pay lower wages and put some money in the pockets of private corporations. In state after state, this has lead to lawsuits, injuries and even deaths. In the final analysis, Michigan citizens will be left to pay the millions in judgments and against the State, and the guilty lawmakers will be long gone. If you think we're headed in the right direction, it's because you don't know the details.