Wyoming City Council adopts zoning limits on where parolees may live

Jan 16, 2012

A Grand Rapids suburb has adopted zoning changes (on page 31) that will limit where the state and federal government can house people on parole. The changes will limit the number of parolees who can live in 1 place to 2 people.

Most parolees go home when they’re released from jail. Those who don’t have a safe place to reintegrate into society are housed through reentry programs. People are usually on parole for two years or less. Usually state parolees are housed in the county where they were sentenced.

Police Chief James Carmody says he supports efforts to house and rehabilitate parolees from Wyoming. But he’s concerned too many are being concentrated in a couple of motels in his city. At a meeting last month Carmody said the concentration of dozens of parolees in a couple of motels was “beyond (his) department’s ability to control.” 

Facilities for housing parolees in the future would only be allowed in an industrial area. The two inns would be grandfathered in. The zoning change includes a wide-ranging exemption for family members.

 “As long as they stay out of trouble and they don’t offend, that’s great,” Carmody said. “The problem is the residual effect on my organization is we’ve got to constantly monitor these individuals and keep track of them. So that’s a huge undertaking.”

Wyoming has cut close to 20 fulltime positions in the police department over the past 5 years. Carmody says there are at least 200 active parolees in the city. He says Wyoming is getting more parolees proportionally compared to neighboring communities.

Wyoming City Councilman Kent Vanderwood has worked with a number of rehabilitation programs. He was 1 of 2 votes against the changes because he’s worried they’re too restrictive.

“I believe that these types of ministries or organizations will be greatly hindered their ability to help men and women seeking a new start under our ordinance.”

Wyoming officials say they’re unaware of any other Michigan cities with a similar ordinance.

Yvonne Jackson is the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative Community Coordinator for Kent and Allegan Counties. At the city council in December she said the Michigan Department of Corrections already housed parolees at the two inns before the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative began. She said at one point there was up to 100 parolees housed at one location. But she says since Chief Carmody raised his concerns the department has lowered the number to around 50 or 60.

“It is not our intent, and we do agree, that housing any one population in a concentrated area is not a best practice. It does not work,” Jackson said. “We continue to work on equitable distribution, if you will, of those populations in other areas.”

No one spoke for or against the ordinance at the meeting Monday night.