Plan to reduce Michigan prison population in the works

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections said she hopes there won’t be a need for as many prisons in the future.

They’re working to downsize the department in the next five years.

6 News Christa Lamendola sat down with her in an exclusive interview to see how that could become a reality.

It’s a vision to cut down on crime and the number of repeat offenders behind bars.

Michigan Department of Corrections director Heidi Washington says zeroing in on the numbers and lowering them is part of her plan for the state.

“We’ve gotten our recidivism rate down from 45 percent down to 29 percent, which is a significant accomplishment.”

But 29 percent of Michigan’s inmates are in for probation violations. That’s 9,000 inmates just in 2014.

Washington says Michigan has made progress with that rate, but she wants to take it a step further by providing job training, rehabilitation and other programs to keep the return rate down.

“It‘s important to not just supervise probationers but to help them be successful and we really haven’t focused on providing vocational training. And so we have a plan that we’re starting to develop that would do that,” said Heidi Washington, director, Michigan Department of Corrections.

With fewer inmates, Washington says hopes to help the state save money and downsize.

“As we reduce our prison population that means closing facilities. I don’t have any plans to do that today but when we’re successful that’s what that would mean.”

But those numbers won’t appear overnight. Washington says she hopes to see results and savings over the next five years.

Washington’s plan is in the early phases, but the Michigan Department of Corrections has proven to be successful compared to other states.

While other states including Ohio have seen their rates of recidivism go up to 37 percent, Michigan’s has gone down to 29 percent.

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