Michigan’s parole policies waste money, need reform

This comes from the Detroit Free Press

Barbara Levine and Michael LaFaive,  December 13, 2014

Michigan spends nearly 20% of its general-fund dollars locking people up. A portion of that money could be better spent elsewhere, such as on education, roads or pension reform.

Despite cost-containment efforts, the Michigan Department of Corrections spends $2 billion a year, more than $1.6 billion of which is spent directly on operating prisons. If all this spending improved public safety, it would be worth it. However, it does not. One way to reduce spending without compromising public safety is through sentencing and parole reforms.

Michigan sends fewer people convicted of felonies to prison than most other states because we have been a national leader in diverting those convicted of serious offenses into community-based programs. As a result, nearly 70% of our prisoners are serving time for assault offenses. What drives our prison population is how long we keep people locked up, compared to other states.

In its 2012 report, “Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms,”the Pew Center reported that Michigan prisoners serve much longer terms for comparable offenses than prisoners in other states. Michigan’s average length of stay is nearly 17 months longer for prisoners overall and 30 months longer for assault offenders.

Read the rest here.

Wisconsin prison system revamps disciplinary rules

This comes from WisconsinWatch.org:

Wisconsin prison system revamps disciplinary rules: Changes come as concerns grow over use of solitary confinement

By: BILL LUEDERS, Dec. 10, 2014

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is quietly preparing to make significant changes to its rules governing inmate discipline, amid heightened discomfort over the state’s use of solitary confinement.

“The disciplinary process should be used as a means to motivate the inmate to alter their negative behavior, with long-term correction of the behavior as the end goal,” wrote Cathy Jess, administrator of the DOC’s division of adult institutions, in a Sept. 25 memo to staff.

Jess’ memo, obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, sheds light on the DOC’s revamping of its disciplinary code, last revised in 2001. The new code calls for speeding up the process of imposing discipline for minor offenses, while upholding the ideals of rehabilitation and fairness.

Prison officials have declined to discuss specifics and it remains unclear what changes will occur. But Jess calls the new rules, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, “an excellent opportunity to focus on making positive changes” to the state’s use of solitary confinement, which in Wisconsin is called segregation. This has been a topic of growing state and national concern.

“Long-term segregation placements have been shown to be ineffective in terms of discipline and do not serve our corrective or rehabilitative goals,” the memo states.

About 1,500 of the state’s 22,000 inmates are in segregation, locked in their cells for upwards of 23 hours a day.

Read the rest of this interesting new development here.

Black Men in Prison

This is a series on WuWM, called Project Milwaukee. The latest broadcast was titled Cutting WI’s High Black Male Incarceration Rate: Progress, But a Long Way to Go.

“It’s been one year since WUWM began an in-depth series on the state’s high rate of African American male incarceration.

Wisconsin leads the nation, by far.

WUWM is checking in with a few key players in the efforts to reduce the numbers. Republican state Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield says developments in Madison have been slow. But he’s hopeful change is on the way, including in the form of legislation that would provide treatment alternatives to prison, for non-violent offenders.”

Read and listen to the rest here.

Mentally Ill Inmates At Michigan Women’s Prison Report They Were Hog Tied Naked, Deprived Of Water

This shocking situation has been going on for a while now. When is MI DOC going to act and take its responsibility on the treatment of people inside its prisons, male and female, especially those who need care and not even more punishment?
From ThinkProgress, Sept 8, 2014
By: Nicole Flatow
Mentally ill at Michigan’s only women’s prison are deprived of food and water for days, and even “hog tied” naked as punishment, according to the accounts of several witnesses compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
Witness reports include particular abuse against mentally ill inmates who are placed in solitary confinement. Inmates reported that the water had been shut off in confinement units, while guards rejected inmates’ water requests for days. At least one inmate who reported this treatment was taken to the hospital last month after she was found non-responsive in her cell.
In another instance, an inmate who was “crying naked on the floor and unable to move-because her feet were cuffed to her hands behind her back” was told that “her fellow prisoner would have to stay like that for two hours or more because she had not learned how to ‘behave’,” according to a letter from the ACLU of Michigan to the Department of Corrections, two University of Michigan law professors, and several other advocacy organizations. “The guard was referring to a young woman with serious mental illness who is unable to control her behavior unless her mental illness is properly treated.”

“According to reports we have received from multiple individuals who have witnessed these events first-hand, mentally ill inmates at Huron Valley are being treated so inhumanely that we believe many corrections experts would characterize their experience as a form of torture,” the letter states. “Witnesses have reported seeing mentally ill prisoners denied water and food, ‘hog tied’ naked for many hours, left to stand, sit, or lie naked in their own feces and urine, denied showers for days, and tasered.”

Last Menard hunger striker calls for a new generation of warriors

From the SF Bay View:
Last Menard hunger striker calls for a new generation of warriors

By Joseph Tillman, June 25, 2014

I participated in the Menard hunger strike and I actually was the last to come off. The hardest part was not not eating but having to notify my loved ones that I may die while trying to make them understand this is worth my life.

Free Leon Benson: Truth never dies, it is only rediscovered!

Leon Benson: sentenced to life in prison in 1999, for a crime he did not commit. We need some more attention to his case, and you can help by reaching out, spreading the word, listening to Leon’s story. Thank you for caring about the truth.

Please visit the website to learn more: Freeleonbenson.org