Michigan prisons http://michiganradio.org en A closer look at Aramark and the troubles with privatization in prisons http://michiganradio.org/post/closer-look-aramark-and-troubles-privatization-prisons <p></p><p></p><p>Sex with inmates - maggots in the food - smuggling drugs to inmates - undercooked or spoiled food.</p><p>When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed inmates in Michigan prisons?</p><p>The privatization was supposed to save the state more than $12 million a year. But it's been a Pandora's box of troubles for state prison officials ever since Aramark took over last December.</p><p>Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau joined us today.&nbsp;<span style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.5; background-color: transparent;">He has reported on all the problems associated with the Aramark contract. Egan </span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">said that so far, things are not getting any better.</span></p><p></p><p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 21:53:04 +0000 Stateside Staff 18417 at http://michiganradio.org A closer look at Aramark and the troubles with privatization in prisons How are leaders in Lansing reacting to Aramark problems? http://michiganradio.org/post/how-are-leaders-lansing-reacting-aramark-problems <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Every week, we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan </span>Demas<span style="line-height: 1.5;">, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken </span>Sikkema<span style="line-height: 1.5;">, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.</span></p><p>It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Aramark, the company that provides food services for Michigan prisons, which has come under a lot of criticism.</p><p>Prisons have complained of food shortages and maggots have been found in prison kitchens. There have also been a number of issues with Aramark employees smuggling contraband into prisons and just this week, four&nbsp;Aramark staffers were fired for having inappropriate contact with prisoners.</p><p>According to Demas, when the state of Michigan decided to privatize the food services in prisons, the objective of the governor and the Legislature was to save money and increase efficiency, but so far it has been marred with problems.</p><p>Meanwhile, Sikkema explains that when the initial discussions were taking place about the most effective ways to save money, privatization was more of a priority for certain legislators, and not necessarily that of the Department of Corrections. Sikkema elaborates that the operational costs have gone up significantly over the past several decades, and as a result, legislators have called for some form of privatization to scale back the spending.</p><p>After issues began to surface with Aramark following the contract, Demas asserts that the response of the state has been keeping tabs and trying to correct the mistakes, but so far, there has been no push to try and eliminate the contract.</p><p>“I do think it clearly raises a question, whether the savings, which are estimated to between $12 to $16 million a year in a $2 billion budget, are worth the problems that they’ve encountered: food issues, sanitation issues, high turnover of staff, sexual misconduct, smuggling of contraband like marijuana into the prisons; I don’t see the contract surviving if these problems continue” says Sikkema.</p><p><em>Omar Saadeh - Michigan Radio Newsroom</em></p><p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 21:19:17 +0000 Jennifer White 18413 at http://michiganradio.org How are leaders in Lansing reacting to Aramark problems? Can Europe provide the US with a model for how to operate prisons? http://michiganradio.org/post/can-europe-provide-us-model-how-operate-prisons <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">All across Michigan, serious questions are being raised about the way our state deals with criminals.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The annual price tag for corrections in Michigan is around $2 billion a year. That’s more than is given for higher education. Michigan also keeps prisoners behind bars longer than the national average.</span></p><p>Is that money giving us a safer state? Are there other approaches?</p><p>Christopher Moraff, a writer for Next City, wrote an article titled: "<a href="http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/us-prisons-reform-european-prisons-model">Can Europe offer the U.S. a Model for Prison Reform?</a>"</p><p>In his piece, Moraff looked mostly at prisons in Germany and the Netherlands.</p><p>In contrast to Europe’s rehabilitation mission, U.S. prisons focus much more on punishing convicted criminals through concepts such as minimum sentences and exclusion from communities.</p><p>“In neither of those countries, in Germany or the Netherlands, is the sole purpose of incarceration to protect society that’s written in law,” Moraff said.</p><p>Moraff said there is an effort to create a normalized set of circumstances to mimic community life as much as possible to re-socialize offenders for when they are released.</p><p>Many European prisoners go home on the weekends to visit their families, have the right to vote, wear their own clothes and make their own meals. Prisoners live in cells that resemble a college dorm. They are allowed to decorate their rooms, and guards knock before entering to instill a sense of privacy and humanity.</p><p>“If we make the goal re-socialization, dehumanization is not the right way to go about that,” Moraff said.</p><p>Moraff said that the guards who work at the correctional facilities have backgrounds in law, mental health, and counseling. They are trained to help provide a therapeutic environment for the people they oversee. They do not simply do head counts and prevent fights.</p><p>“There is a level of professionalism and a level of training that goes with this that is unlike anything we have in America,” Moraff said.</p><p>Moraff said there have been some efforts made in Pennsylvania and Colorado to retrain their staff in these methods.</p><p><em>*Listen to full story above</em></p><p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:50:15 +0000 Stateside Staff 18367 at http://michiganradio.org Can Europe provide the US with a model for how to operate prisons? You get what you pay when hiring private company for Michigan prisons: embarrassing failures http://michiganradio.org/post/you-get-what-you-pay-when-hiring-private-company-michigan-prisons-embarrassing-failures <p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">I’d like to start the week with a thought that some will consider heresy: sometimes, privatization just doesn’t work.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">There are some functions and responsibilities that government handles better.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">American is gung-ho for privatization these days, both to save money, and because government at all levels has become something we love to hate.&nbsp;</span><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Thanks to years of being told that government is bad, corrupt, expensive and inefficient, we are happy to reduce its size.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Well, we may not be quite ready to hand the nuclear arsenal over to an assets management firm, but apart from that, anything goes. And frankly, there are some things that probably should be privatized.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">Garbage collection, for example.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;">But Michigan decided last year to privatize food service in our prisons, and so far, it has been a highly embarrassing failure.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial; font-size: small; line-height: normal;"><a href="http://www.freep.com/article/20140713/NEWS06/307130099">The <em>Detroit Free Press</em></a> used the state Freedom of Information Act to find out what’s happened since the state contracted with a private food services company, Aramark Correctional Services of Pennsylvania.</span></p><p> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:52:17 +0000 Jack Lessenberry 18358 at http://michiganradio.org You get what you pay when hiring private company for Michigan prisons: embarrassing failures The Cell Block 7 Prison Museum catalogs the prison's history http://michiganradio.org/post/cell-block-7-prison-museum-catalogs-prisons-history <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It's been known for decades as the world's largest walled prison - the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson.</span></p><p>Now some of the very colorful stories from that prison and from Jackson are told in the new Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. It's a joint venture of the Ella Sharp Museum and the Michigan Department of Corrections.</p><p>The museum is renting part of cell block seven, which still houses inmates.</p><p><a href="http://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/index.ssf/2014/06/10_stories_to_get_you_ready_fo.html">MLive’s Leanne Smith</a> said the museum covers the history of the prison, the inmates, wardens, and guards since 1838.</p><p>“It is an actual cell block,” Smith said. “You walk in and there is no doubt as to where you are.”</p><p>*<em>Listen to full interview above.&nbsp;</em></p><p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:19:45 +0000 Stateside Staff 18296 at http://michiganradio.org The Cell Block 7 Prison Museum catalogs the prison's history Prison museum in Jackson offers a "captivating" experience http://michiganradio.org/post/prison-museum-jackson-offers-captivating-experience <p>This Saturday, a unique museum experience will open in Michigan.</p><p></p><p>“Cell Block 7” at the state prison in Jackson will officially open to the public. &nbsp;The museum is located in the old Southern Michigan Correctional Facility. The cell block was closed in 2007.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>The museum will chronicle <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_State_Prison">the history of state prisons in Jackson</a>, which dates back to the 1830s. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p></p> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 19:56:00 +0000 Steve Carmody 18132 at http://michiganradio.org Prison museum in Jackson offers a "captivating" experience New program helps families communicate with loved ones in prison http://michiganradio.org/post/new-program-helps-families-communicate-loved-ones-prison <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There's a new effort underway to help the families of Michigan inmates cope with having someone they love in prison.&nbsp;</span></p><p>It's a pilot program that centers on having someone serve as a liaison between prisoner's families and officials at three Michigan prisons. That someone brings hard-earned insight to what it's like to have a loved one behind bars.&nbsp;</p><p>Lois DeMott's son was a prisoner, so she learned firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the prison system.&nbsp;</p><p>Now, she hopes to help other families with the new Family Participation Program. She joined us on Stateside.&nbsp;</p><p><em>*Listen to the full interview above.</em></p><p> Tue, 27 May 2014 20:47:06 +0000 Stateside Staff 17761 at http://michiganradio.org New program helps families communicate with loved ones in prison The number of women going to prison is rising quickly http://michiganradio.org/post/number-women-going-prison-rising-quickly <p></p><p>There's no arguing the fact that more women are being put behind bars.&nbsp;</p><p>The female prison population in this country rose 646% from 1980 to 2010, largely because of drug offenses. That adds up to 112,000 women in state and federal prisons.&nbsp;</p><p>So what happens&nbsp;once these women are paroled?</p><p>Jennifer Cobbina is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. She's the lead author of a study on female parolees that was published in the journa Race and Justice. She joined us on Stateside.</p><p><em>*Listen to the full interview above.&nbsp;</em></p><p> Tue, 27 May 2014 20:37:39 +0000 Stateside Staff 17762 at http://michiganradio.org The number of women going to prison is rising quickly Michigan inmates get remedy in parole ban case http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-inmates-get-remedy-parole-ban-case <p>DETROIT (AP) - About 130 Michigan prison inmates will have an opportunity to seek parole in a case that ends an unusual state policy of treating them as mandatory lifers.<br /><br />The state won't appeal a 2013 court decision that struck down the policy and has agreed to clear the way for a parole process. Judge Deborah Servitto signed an order last week.<br /><br />It's an odd case. The inmates were sent to prison with life sentences for a variety of crimes but still had a chance at parole. Then they got in trouble for possessing a weapon or committing another offense behind bars. Sat, 15 Mar 2014 18:41:00 +0000 The Associated Press 16862 at http://michiganradio.org Michigan inmates get remedy in parole ban case Fewer than 1 in 3 Michigan parolees returning to prison http://michiganradio.org/post/fewer-1-3-michigan-parolees-returning-prison <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Michigan’s rate of people returning to prison continues its steady decline.</span></p><p>The recidivism rate is now at 29%. That’s an all-time low for the state. It’s a pretty good rate compared to other states, too.</p><p>“That’s really what every corrections department across the country wants to see,” Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said. “You know you’re doing an effective job of transitioning people from prison back to their communities.”</p><p>Marlan says the lower rate translates to safer communities.</p> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 20:39:18 +0000 Lindsey Smith 16831 at http://michiganradio.org Fewer than 1 in 3 Michigan parolees returning to prison Giving a voice to prisoners: Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project http://michiganradio.org/post/giving-voice-prisoners-michigans-prison-creative-arts-project <p>Just because you've been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to prison, doesn't mean you no longer have a voice, an opinion, something to say.</p><p>And that's why each year the Prison Creative Arts Project puts out the call to prisoners all around Michigan: Send us your poetry, your essays, your short stories.</p><p>PCAP goes through each submission and selects work to go into its annual Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. &nbsp;They're about to release their sixth volume. This one is called "The Sky Is On Fire, After All."</p><p>Philip Christman edits the Review, and he's an English Department instructor at the University of Michigan. He joined us today.</p><p><em>Listen to the full interview above.&nbsp;</em></p><p> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 20:25:06 +0000 Stateside Staff 16829 at http://michiganradio.org Giving a voice to prisoners: Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project Corrections report blames convicted killer's escape largely on motion sensor turned off by staffers http://michiganradio.org/post/corrections-report-blames-convicted-killers-escape-largely-motion-sensor-turned-staffers <p>The Michigan Department of Corrections has released a report on last month’s escape from a state prison in Ionia. The report puts much of the blame on two corrections employees.</p><p></p><p>Convicted killer Michael Elliot, dressed all in white to match the snow on the ground, slipped through the fences at the Ionia Correctional facility to freedom the night of February 2. He was captured in northern Indiana the next day, after carjacking a woman in Ionia.</p><p></p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 00:05:07 +0000 Steve Carmody 16758 at http://michiganradio.org Corrections report blames convicted killer's escape largely on motion sensor turned off by staffers Killer describes escape from Michigan prison as `easy' http://michiganradio.org/post/killer-describes-escape-michigan-prison-easy <p>IONIA, Mich. (AP) - The convicted killer who escaped from a Michigan prison says it "was relatively simple."<br /><br />Michael Elliot was discovered missing Sunday during an inmate count at the Ionia Correctional Facility, 30 miles east of Grand Rapids. The 40-year-old was arrested Monday in northwestern Indiana, driving a stolen vehicle.<br /><br />The Detroit Free Press reports Elliot used his one phone call at the Indiana jail where he's being held on $1 million bond to discuss the escape with the newspaper.<br /> Sun, 09 Feb 2014 16:59:00 +0000 The Associated Press 16366 at http://michiganradio.org Killer describes escape from Michigan prison as `easy' Michigan bills aim to help parolees land jobs http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-bills-aim-help-parolees-land-jobs <p>LANSING, Mich. (AP) - New legislation in Lansing is designed to help inmates find a job when they leave prison.</p><p></p><p>The bills would let Michigan certify felons' skills and character to help them during the job application process. The "certificate of employability" could go to parolees based on their criminal history, institutional behavioral record, and vocational and educational training.</p> Sun, 12 Jan 2014 23:38:02 +0000 Associated Press 15987 at http://michiganradio.org Michigan bills aim to help parolees land jobs Listen to these stories from those who knew what it was like in Jackson state prison http://michiganradio.org/post/listen-these-stories-those-who-knew-what-it-was-jackson-state-prison <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Jackson, Michigan was home to one of the largest prisons in the world – the Michigan State Prison, later renamed the&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 19.1875px;">State Prison of Southern Michigan</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p><p>We went on a tour of the old prison with <a href="https://www.historicprisontours.com/">Jackson Historic Prison Tours</a>. While there we met some former prisoners and prison staff, and decided to follow up with them afterwards.</p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 16:10:06 +0000 Allison Downey & Zak Rosen 15779 at http://michiganradio.org Listen to these stories from those who knew what it was like in Jackson state prison