In new new book, Heather Ann Thompson looks at the Attica prison uprising of 1971. and what it can tell us about today's prisons.
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The book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy has been getting lots of attention by the national media and is a National Book Award finalist.

The author is University of Michigan Professor of History Heather Ann Thompson.

She joined us today to talk about the 1971 prison uprising in New York and what we can learn from it today.

Shayan Sanyal /

Last month on Sept. 10, there was an incident at the Kinross Correctional Facility. It started with a peaceful demonstration by prisoners and ended with a fire, smashed windows, and other vandalism. 250 inmates were moved to higher security prisons.

MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”
flickr user Thomas Hawk /


On September 10, there was an uprising at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, it’s the most serious incident inside a Michigan prison anyone can recall since the 1981 riot at what was then called Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson.

President Obama greets inmates during a visit to El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., July 16, 2015.
Pete Souza / White House

President Obama is using the power of his office to reduce the sentences of people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. Today his office announced that he cut short the sentences of 111 federal inmates.

The commutations announced today included three identified as being from Michigan:

Flickr user Jobs For Felons Hub/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When you think of "prison inmates," what's the first thing that comes to mind?

For many, it might be the face of someone convicted for a high-profile, brutal crime.

For others, it may be the image of some vague, homogenous mass of "bad" people who are best locked away. 

Judy Patterson Wenzel begs to differ.

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More than 360 Michigan inmates have been dealt a setback.

The prisoners were all sentenced to automatic life without parole as teenagers. The U.S. Supreme Court says that's unconstitutional.

So local prosecutors were set to re-sentence those Michigan inmates. 

Attorneys for those prisoners objected. They worried local prosecutors would routinely seek life without parole during re-sentencing, and argued the Supreme Court decision should prevent that.

But Judge John Corbett O'Meara disagreed.

A student inmate reads in class
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

For a convicted felon, getting a shot at an education might begin in prison.

Typically that means job training or a GED.

But a new program offers something more often associated with quiet campuses and ivy-covered walls.

The Calvin Prison Initiative is bringing the liberal arts and theology to inmates at a west Michigan prison.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

A Republican state legislator leading the effort to overhaul criminal justice in Michigan says rehabilitation is as important as punishment.

State Senator John Proos says the public is safer and taxpayers save money when released felons don’t re-offend – and when juveniles don’t become permanent clients of the criminal justice system.

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The City of Detroit is trying to help people who have criminal records clear up those past mistakes in order to get a job.

Melvin Hollowell is Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit and he joins Stateside to talk about Project Clean Slate. The program seeks to help Detroit residents expunge their records so they can get back into the workforce.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Melvin Hollowell is Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit

MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”
flickr user Thomas Hawk /

There's a category in which Michigan beats countries like China, Russia, Thailand, Cuba and Iran. Michigan imprisons its citizens at a far higher rate.

And Michigan is actually below the national average. States such as Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi imprison as many as one out of every 100 residents. 

The U.S. turns to incarceration much more readily than the rest of the world. 

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about the state health director's statement that Ebola concerns distracted from a Legionnaires' outbreak in Genesee County, two bills on hold in the Legislature that would affect Michigan historic districts, and a report that says one in 10 Michigan kids has a parent who is or was in prison.

Shayan Sanyal /

One in 10 children in Michigan had a parent incarcerated in 2011-12, according to a report released Monday.

The report says 228,000 children had parents in jail at some point during this timeframe. Over 5.1 million children nationwide had a parent imprisoned at this time. Most of these children are under 10 years old.

Shaka Senghor sits down with Cynthia Canty on Stateside
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

There are roughly 42,000 men and women serving time in prison in the state of Michigan. They all have stories of how they got there, ranging from poor choices and a bad upbringing to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shaka Senghor, a leading criminal justice reform activist, is now telling his story. He is currently a mentor to youth, and a leader in helping victims and violent offenders heal through the power of the arts. But he didn’t start out that way.

"I came to prison with blood on my hands; I will leave with paint on them" - Johnnie Trice
Johnnie Trice

In all the conversations and policy debates over our criminal justice system, it can be easy to get caught up in the sheer numbers of inmates in our prisons and jails. When that happens, we lose sight of the people in those prison cells – people who bear the same fears, hopes and longings as anyone on the outside.

A unique program called “Humanize the Numbers” is bringing University of Michigan students and state prison inmates in an effort to address this oversight.

Solitary confinement is a means of punishment used to varying degrees in prisons across the country
flickr user Still Burning /

Imagine that you’re in prison, and you mess up. Maybe you lose your temper and lash out at a corrections officer, or you use your fists to resolve a conflict with your cellmate.

That can land you in “administrative segregation,” also known as solitary confinement.

Too many Americans have languished in solitary, not knowing when they’ll get out and not being allowed privileges like calls from home. And when they do get out, they’re often worse off than they were before they went into solitary, full of anger and seeking retribution.


The Michigan Innocence Clinic says a wrongfully convicted man has served nearly 20 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Lamarr Monson was convicted of brutally killing a 12-year-old girl in 1996.

But attorneys with the Innocence Clinic say Monson was forced into a false confession, and that new fingerprint evidence points to another killer, who's currently living freely in another state.

A brutal killing 

Lamarr Monson and Christina Brown were both selling drugs out of the same apartment in Detroit in 1996. Monson would eventually tell police their relationship was sexual, but he says he didn’t know she was 12.

Derek Key / flickr

The state Supreme Court has returned 85 criminal cases to lower courts for re-sentencing hearings. That’s because of a recent decision that changed the rules for sentencing defendants.

In August, the state Supreme Court struck down Michigan’s mandatory sentencing guidelines. It said the rules required judges to factor in crimes and evidence that were never proven in court, and that’s unconstitutional.

Courtesy Siena Heights University

A Roman Catholic nun living in Adrian has been teaching literature to male prisoners at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility for nearly 30 years.

"They were engaged. They were passionate. They had read the book. They wanted to talk about it," said Sr. Pat Schnapp, associate professor of English at Siena Heights University. "And my teacherly heart just took off and I was hooked from that point on. I thought, 'I always want to do this in my life.'"

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of federal prisoners are set to be released within the next month, but fewer than 100 of them are expected to wind up in Michigan.

The historic prisoner release comes as the U.S. Department of Justice reconfigures sentencing guidelines for drug crimes.

MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”
flickr user Thomas Hawk /

Almost six years ago, Michigan’s only women’s prison settled a huge lawsuit after officers raped multiple female inmates.

Changes have been made since then, but are they enough?

MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”
flickr user Thomas Hawk /

What determines whether a prisoner should be paroled?

In Michigan, that decision is informed by a risk assessment questionnaire called COMPAS.

Sonja B. Starr is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and is the co-director of the Center for Empirical Legal Studies.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol say it’s time for prison kitchens to be inspected by local health agencies. That’s after the most recent instance of maggots found in a corrections food service facility.


Prison kitchens are exempt from local health inspections.