michigan department of corrections

Prisons
10:07 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

AG prison report cites human, technology errors as prime cause of inmate escape

Credit Photo courtesy of Michigan's Attorney General office / michigan.gov

A report by the Michigan Attorney General's office has found both human and technology failures played a part in the prison escape of a convicted murderer.

Michael Elliot slipped out of the Ionia Correctional Facility last February 2 by crawling under fences during a heavy snowfall. He wore white clothes to blend into the snow. He was captured about 24 hours later in Indiana.

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Stateside
5:53 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

A closer look at Aramark and the troubles with privatization in prisons

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Sex with inmates - maggots in the food - smuggling drugs to inmates - undercooked or spoiled food.

When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed inmates in Michigan prisons?

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.

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau joined us today. He has reported on all the problems associated with the Aramark contract. Egan said that so far, things are not getting any better.

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Stateside
4:19 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

The Cell Block 7 Prison Museum catalogs the prison's history

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's been known for decades as the world's largest walled prison - the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson.

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.

The museum is renting part of cell block seven, which still houses inmates.

MLive’s Leanne Smith said the museum covers the history of the prison, the inmates, wardens, and guards since 1838.

“It is an actual cell block,” Smith said. “You walk in and there is no doubt as to where you are.”

*Listen to full interview above. 

Law
11:11 am
Sat July 5, 2014

Michigan man with odd sentence stuck with life in prison

Leon Echols was convicted of second-degree murder in 1989 for shooting a man in a dispute over a used car. He says it was self-defense.
Credit Michigan Department of Corrections

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Leon Echols has spent his adult years in Michigan prisons for killing a man when he was 18. He's not eligible for parole until he's in his 80s, but he's been trying to convince authorities that his punishment doesn't fit the crime.  

Echols was convicted of second-degree murder in 1989 for shooting a man in a dispute over a used car. He says it was self-defense.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Aramark contract "up in the air" after more maggots found in prison food

Credit wikimedia commons

Aramark Correctional Services, the private company that provides food to Michigan prisons, is in trouble again.

Inmates at the Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center in Jackson found maggots while peeling potatoes Tuesday morning.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the warden was notified, and quickly moved to dispose of all the potatoes.

The kitchen was then thoroughly bleached. No resulting health problems have been reported.

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Politics & Government
5:56 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Michigan puts prison food service company prisoners on notice: Get it together ... or else

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Michigan’s Department of Corrections says problems with Aramark, the company that provides inmates their meals, have the potential to compromise safety and security in the state's prisons.

Food service was privatized at Michigan’s 31 prisons in December, saving roughly $16 million a year.

“Literally from a Saturday to a Sunday it transitioned to 360 contractor workers who, in many cases, had never been inside a correctional facility,” Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said. “So we expected some problems, we expected some issues.”

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Law
5:05 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

New program to help families of Michigan prisoners

Credit Larry Farr / Morguefile

Helping prison officials and the families of prisoners communicate better is the goal of a pilot project at three Michigan prisons. So is providing support to the families of prisoners.

The privately funded Family Participation Program will partner with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

MDOC spokesperson Russ Marlan says it's hard for family members to negotiate the unfamiliar world of prisons. 

He said having an independent liaison for each prison will make it easier for family members to get their questions answered.

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Law
2:41 pm
Sat March 15, 2014

Michigan inmates get remedy in parole ban 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.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

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.

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.

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.

Politics & Government
4:39 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Fewer than 1 in 3 Michigan parolees returning to prison

Tim Pierce, Los Gatos Creative Commons

Michigan’s rate of people returning to prison continues its steady decline.

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.

“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.”

Marlan says the lower rate translates to safer communities.

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Politics & Government
7:05 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Corrections report blames convicted killer's escape largely on motion sensor turned off by staffers

Michael Elliot told the Detroit Free Press escaping from the Ionia Correctional Facility was "easy."
Michigan Department of Corrections

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.

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.

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Law
11:59 am
Sun February 9, 2014

Killer describes escape from Michigan prison as `easy'

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.
Michigan Dept. of Corrections

IONIA, Mich. (AP) - The convicted killer who escaped from a Michigan prison says it "was relatively simple."

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.

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.

Law
10:23 am
Sat February 8, 2014

2 Michigan prison workers suspended after escape

(file photo)
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

IONIA, Mich. (AP) - Two employees have been suspended at a western Michigan prison where a convicted killer escaped for 24 hours.

Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan says one is an officer and the other is a shift commander. He declined to provide their names or any other details but says the suspensions are related to the investigation at the Ionia Correctional Facility.

Michael Elliot escaped last Sunday and left the state in a Jeep that belonged to a Belding woman. She got away later that night. Elliot was captured Monday in northwestern Indiana.

The Living Room
11:10 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Listen to these stories from those who knew what it was like in Jackson state prison

Jackson State Prison from a 1949 postcard.
Donald Harrison Flickr

Jackson, Michigan was home to one of the largest prisons in the world – the Michigan State Prison, later renamed the State Prison of Southern Michigan.

We went on a tour of the old prison with Jackson Historic Prison Tours. While there we met some former prisoners and prison staff, and decided to follow up with them afterwards.

Listen to their powerful stories above.

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Politics & Government
8:23 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Michigan's governor pushing ahead with privatized prison food

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says he plans to push ahead with plans to privatize food service for the state's 45,000 prison inmates under a proposed $145 million, 3-year contract.

Snyder tells the Detroit Free Press that he'll consider objections from Republican state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and unionized prison employees and others but won't let them block the process.

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Law
1:55 pm
Sun August 25, 2013

Michigan prison system credits Tasers for guard attack drop

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's prison system is crediting the introduction of Tasers for a drop in attacks on its employees.

The Michigan Department of Corrections issued the electronic stunning devices in five prisons in December 2011 and expanded the deployment system-wide last year.

The Lansing State Journal says a Michigan prison employee uses a Taser on a prisoner about twice a day. It says there have been 576 Taserings since Oct. 1, 2012.

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Stateside
5:12 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Michigan's tough sentencing guidelines may need to be reformed

The average Michigan inmate serves 4.3 years.
Flickr user Still Burning Creative Commons

An interview with Anne Yantuss and Russ Marlan.

It was 1998 when Michigan's lawmakers voted to approve tougher "lock 'em up policies."

Some may argue whether that made Michigan any safer, but one thing cannot be argued: Michigan leads the nation in average time served by inmates: 4.3 years. That's 48% higher than the national average of 2.9 years. That's according to a 2012 national study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

And these tough sentencing guidelines are exacting a cost from the state's collective "wallet." Michigan's corrections budget currently exceeds $2 billion.

The state sentencing guidelines have not been reviewed for 15 years.

In response, the Michigan Law Review Commission has launched a bipartisan review to figure out just where Michigan stands when compared to the rest of the nation, and where reform might be needed.

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Law
4:04 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Michigan prison sentences, longest in US, under review

Credit Flick user Still Burning / Creative Commons

Prisoners in Michigan serve longer sentences than in any other state. That's according to a recent Pew study, which finds lengthy sentences have bloated the state's corrections budget. Michigan spends more than two billion dollars a year on prisons.

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Stateside
4:56 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Prisons adopt postsecondary education programs

An interview with program director Fred Patrick and former inmate Rick.

One of the biggest challenges we face as a state and as a nation is how do we keep paroled prisoners from becoming repeat offenders and winding up back behind bars?

Solid evidence points to postsecondary education as one of the major keys to helping former inmates build productive lives after parole.

After many years without any funding for prisoners to be able to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections has gotten a one million dollar grant to launch postsecondary educational programs and vocational training to a small number of inmates who are near parole.

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Politics & Government
7:52 am
Mon May 20, 2013

In this morning's news: possible cap on FOIA fees, Lansing's budget showdown, education for inmates

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 20, 2013
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Legislation in Michigan House could cap FOIA fees

There is new legislation up for initial hearing this week in Lansing. It is a response to local governments and state agencies charging hefty fees for people to see government records.

"One of the bills would limit most charges for requests filed under the state’s Freedom of Information Act to no more than 10 cents a page. Another would create a Michigan Open Government Commission to hear challenges to government denials of information requests," Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

Lansing City Council vs. Mayor Virg Bernero

The Lansing city council will vote tonight on a budget for next year. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that "the vote will likely put the council at odds with Mayor Virg Bernero." 

The mayor wants to add annual fees for city water and electricity customers. Conversely, the council wants to make several spending cuts including eliminating several new positions the mayor wants to add to the city's payroll. Mayor Virg Bernero will have until Thursday to veto parts of the city budget he doesn’t like. The Lansing city council has until early June to try to override the mayor’s expected vetoes.

Higher education opportunities piloted in Michigan prisons

"After years without funding for prisoners to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections is immersed in several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates who are near parole. Michigan will join a pilot project that hopes to gather enough evidence to possibly resurrect publicly supported postsecondary education in prisons nationally," reports The Detroit News.

Law
12:59 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

Muskegon prison reopens; set to employ 240

Ken Mayer flickr

The Muskegon Correctional Facility has reopened and will employ 240 people.

That is freeing up space for inmates in other parts of the state.

Michigan began closing prisons in 2007 as part of budget cuts. The Muskegon Correctional Facility was shut down in 2009.

Now the 1,300 bed, medium-security facility is open again and the state has begun transferring inmates from other places—mostly from the Ryan Correction Facility in Detroit.

Russ Marlan is a Department of Corrections spokesman.

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