MICH. (WJMN/PRESS RELEASE) – Michigan continues to see a historic decline in offenders who return to prison within three years of release.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced that for the second year in a row, Michigan’s recidivism rate, the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend, is the lowest in state history. The state now stands at a rate of 26.6 percent and places Michigan among the best in the country.

“It’s really showing that what we’re doing is working in terms of providing more educational and vocational opportunities to prisoners,” said Chris Gautz, the public information officer for MDOC. “We’re really focusing on programming in our Offender Success services. As well as on the field side, when parolees are released making sure we have a lot of tools in the toolkit for our field agents to use to help people keep on the straight and narrow, new ways of interacting with them, creating more beneficial conversations, making sure we’re keeping up that they have adequate housing, that they’re out looking for jobs.”

Recidivism in Michigan has been on a steady decline for the last decade, hovering around the 30 percentile in the last few years. In 1998, the recidivism rate was 45.7 percent. Gautz said preparing parolees to enter back into the workforce is helping the state’s recidivism rates. This includes helping future-parolees to create a resume, making sure they have all the correct paperwork (such as birth certificate and Social Security cards), and providing real vocational training or educational opportunities from community colleges.

Offenders can be returned to prison for committing new crimes, or for violating the conditions of their parole. The current figures represent individuals who were released from prison in 2017.

“We know that those people are going to be far more successful if they walk out of prison on a Tuesday and they step onto the factory floor on Wednesday, and they also have adequate housing to stay in. That person is much more likely to be successful and less likely to come back to prison or fall back into that life of crime if they already have a new life for them as soon as they leave,” said Gautz.

In our web exclusive, Gautz explains in further detail what the state is doing to help parolees get jobs after prison and how they’re encouraging businesses to hire them:

“Our administration has spent the last two years delivering bipartisan solutions to improve the criminal justice system in a way that makes Michigan a leader in smart justice, and the results speak for themselves,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. “We must continue to pursue reforms that allow the system to work for more people, so that fewer people return to prison or find themselves there in the first place. When we build programs and policies that are designed to help people—victims, survivors, and those who have committed offenses—we simultaneously make our families, neighborhoods, and communities safer and stronger.”

Last year, the department’s recidivism rate stood at 26.7 percent. The year before that it was at 29.1 percent.

In 2020, the department built upon its success and began new efforts to further enhance Offender Success that will help to reduce the number of people coming back to prison even more in the years to come.

The department’s third Vocational Village is set to launch soon at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility. And last summer, the MDOC and the Michigan Department of State announced a joint initiative to help returning citizens reintegrate into their communities by providing them with a driver’s license or state ID upon their parole.

Efforts to reduce opioid addiction, provide mentors to parolees and use of a new model to improve interactions with those the MDOC supervises are just some of the plans rolling out this year as part of the department’s strategic plan.

“We are proud to see the rate of recidivism continue to decline. It is a clear sign we are on the right path,” said Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington. “Our focus on long-term public safety not only helps those under our supervision and their families, but also the wider community, as having fewer people coming to prison, means less crime and fewer victims.”

While the department sees the drop in the recidivism rate as a positive sign, the fact that far fewer people are in prison today, is just as an important of a measure of success. The prison population now is at 33,000, which is a level not seen in 30 years.

Since 2015, the prison population has dropped by 21 percent, due to a focus on programming for probationers to give them the tools needed to not end up in prison, greatly expanding programming and educational opportunities for prisoners and enhanced methods of supervision upon release that lead to better outcomes and increased employment.

“Our staff, from the prison to the field and everywhere in between have all had a hand in our success and it is because of their efforts, we continue to see these historic declines,” Washington said.