prisons

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.

Politics & Government
11:52 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Michigan prisoners may soon be eating ARAMARK meals

Michigan's Prisoners may see food from ARAMARK.
Simon Brass Flickr

About 400 food service state employees may soon be out of work at Michigan’s prisons.

That’s after Michigan reversed its previous decision NOT to privatize the contract.

The original company bids did not meet the state benchmark of at least 5 percent savings.

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Arts & Culture
5:33 pm
Sun April 28, 2013

Shakespeare helps prisoners change

Frannie Shepherd-Bates (standing) directs actor Molly McMahon in a project outside of prison. Shepherd-Bates is executive artistic director of the Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company in Detroit.

Frannie Shepherd-Bates is a Shakespeare geek. She is also executive artistic director of the Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company in Detroit.

Twice a week, Shepherd-Bates drives from metro Detroit to the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, which is about 10 miles south of Ann Arbor, to share her love of Shakespeare.

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Stateside
3:39 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Art from behind bars

A PCAP workshop Washtenaw Prisoner Reentry.
PCAP

On March 19, the 18th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan prisoners will open at the Duderstadt Center on the North Campus of the University of Michigan.

The exhibition is a extension of the Prison Creative Arts Project spearheaded by University of Michigan Professor Buzz Alexander and is the largest exhibition of prisoner art in the country, containing some 300 works by over 200 artists.

Founded in 1990, PCAP "facilitates the opportunity to create original works of art in correctional facilities, urban high schools, and communities across the state of Michigan."

The project is affiliated with the Department of English Language and Literature, Alexander's department.

"When we come in (to prisons) we are in awe and we bring respect to the artists," Alexander said. "This year there are 428 works of art in the show that prisoners have been preparing for all year."

Alexander noted that the exhibition is a way for the artists to gain visibility. One artist talked with a PCAP facilitator about how it's a bridge that connects her to the outside world.

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Politics & Government
3:31 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Michigan won't privatize prisons further

1700 prison employees will not face privatization.
Simon Brass Flickr

Michigan will not privatize nearly $350 million in prisoner health care and food costs, keeping intact nearly 1,700 state workers' jobs.

State Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan told The Associated Press on Friday that none of three contracts out for bid would have achieved the necessary 5 percent savings as required by state rules.

Bidding out more of the prison health system could have been the largest privatization of state government services in Michigan history.

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Law
3:00 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Michigan inmate loses bid to have commutation of life sentence reinstated

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan appeals court says it has no authority to intervene in the judgment of then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who agreed to change a prisoner's no-parole sentence but then changed her mind before leaving office in 2010.

The court said Friday it must respect the "clear and exclusive constitutional power" granted to Michigan governors in commutation matters.

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Law
1:01 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

ACLU sues Isabella County for overcrowding in jail

Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski
isabellacounty.org

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action lawsuit against Isabella County.

It says the county jail violates the constitutional rights of inmates with cells that are too crowded, and too few opportunities to exercise.

The federal lawsuit also says the jail discriminates against female inmates because they can’t participate in work assignments that could reduce their sentences.   

ACLU attorney Sarah Mehta filed the lawsuit.

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Law
3:39 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Report critical of Michigan policies placing teen offenders in solitary confinement

An isolation cell is shown on the cover of a 141 page report on the effects of solitary confinement on teenage offenders
ACLU

Michigan jail and prison policies that place teenage offenders in solitary confinement are getting criticized in a new report.

“Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on research in U.S. jails and prisons in Michigan and four other states: Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania

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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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Law
3:30 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

Report: More Michigan ex-cons killing after leaving prison

A guard tower at one of the state prisons located in Jackson, Michigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More and more Michigan ex-cons are killing people after they leave prison, a problem that the state Department of Corrections and its employees union blame on each other.

The Detroit Free Press says 88 probationers or parolees committed 95 homicides in 2010 through Aug. 31, 2012. Ex-cons under state supervision killed 21 people in 2010, 38 in 2012 and 36 in the first eight months of 2012.

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Government
4:44 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Genesee County Jail to release inmates because of “overcrowding emergency”

The emergency was declared this week when the number of inmates remained above 700 for seven days in a row. The jail’s capacity is only 580 inmates.

That means state law now requires the jail to release about 175 inmates in the next two weeks. The number needs to get to 555 within 12 days; if the sheriff’s department can’t do that it’ll create a list to hand over to judges to decide.

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Politics & Government
9:32 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Prison employees in Michigan fight against privatization

Members of the Michigan Corrections Organization picket in front of the headquarters of the Department of Corrections.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A public employees’ union says it will offer a counter-proposal if the state goes ahead with plans to privatize prison health care.

Governor Rick Snyder has ruled out privatizing entire prisons. But corrections officials think there may be savings to be had if the state turns to private companies to provide health care services.

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, which represents many of the corrections employees who would be affected. He said the union will offer its own plan to save taxpayers money by reducing the costs of management and outsourcing.

“We believe we can beat any private company. We can do the job better, more effectively, and we want to be given the opportunity to prove it,” said Holman.

Holman said the union believes it can deliver the same services at a lower cost than other bidders. Those services include inmate health clinics, psychiatric services and counseling, psychological evaluations for parole candidates, and record-keeping.

morning news roundup
8:23 am
Mon September 10, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Lower lake levels-- the good and bad news

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Law
11:27 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Inmates in Oakland County jail released due to overcrowding

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says releasing more than 200 prisoners from the overcrowded  County Jail could have been avoided,  if judges had used alternative sentencing.

He  tells The Detroit News he sent a letter to judges earlier this month, notifying them of the "jail emergency and asking for cooperation to help avoid it."

Michigan law requires sentence reductions if prisoners don't pose a high risk.

Bouchard says beds are being used by inmates who don't need to be in jail, and could have been punished differently, avoiding the problem.

3:26 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Michigan inmate challenges former governor Granholm's commutation reversal

Lead in text: 
A fascinating story about a last second reversal by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. At the end of her term as governor in 2010, Granholm had signed an order commuting Matthew Makowski's sentence of life without parole. Makowski was convicted of first degree murder for setting up a robbery of a co-worker in 1988. But after she was contacted by the victim's family, Granholm reversed her order. Now lawyers are arguing whether she had the authority to rescind her original order.
LANSING, Mich. - Three days before Christmas 2010, a Michigan inmate got a remarkable gift: Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she would commute his life sentence for first-degree murder, ensuring his release after two decades in prison for setting up a robbery that led to the fatal stabbing of a co-worker.
Law
3:58 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Appeals Court: Sexually abused female prisoners must pay debts before collecting settlement money

Michigan Court of Appeals
user BotMultichill Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals says women who were sexually abused in state prisons must pay the victim restitution and child support they owe before collecting settlement money from their class-action suit.

A three-judge appeals court panel ruled today that an order protecting the names of the women who sued should remain in effect.

But the court also says that where there's a conflict between protecting the women's identities and making sure that they pay victim restitution and child support, the courts must make sure the debts get paid.

Politics & Government
8:44 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Detroit Congressman wants to make "ban the box" federal law

Hansen Clarke

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke has introduced a bill that supporters say would make it easier for ex-felons to get jobs.

The bill would prohibit employers from asking about a job applicants’ criminal record until they’ve made that person a conditional job offer.

So-called “ban the box” ordinances are already on the books in Detroit, other cities and a few states.

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Law
3:44 pm
Sun July 22, 2012

Cops, former inmates unite

Detroit officers
Flickr user Miss Lauralee

A new program in Detroit is taking a creative approach to helping former inmates improve their lives. That approach involves pairing two groups of people who often don't trust one another: former inmates and police officers.

Jessica Taylor came up with the idea for the mentorship program called New Beginnings. She’s Executive Director of Chance for Life, a non-profit that helps inmates transition back into the community after they've been released.

As part of the mentorship program, officers drive the men to counseling appointments and recovery programs. They help the men obtain birth certificates and social security cards. The pairs also take part in social activities, like going to ball games.

At first, Taylor says it was a tough sell to both groups. But after a few months of spending time together, she says the men consider each other friends, and some even consider one another family.

Taylor says if you want to make communities safer, you have to engage the people who make them unsafe, and you have to involve the police. She hopes to expand the program in the near future.

Law
4:47 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

State laws allowing life sentences without parole for juveniles unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court
User kconnors MorgueFile.com

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down state laws that allow juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. The ruling says life without parole for crimes that occurred when a felon was younger than 18 is excessive and violates the Eighth Amendment.

Michigan is one of several states that allowed juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. The state has more than 350 people in state prisons serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

State to convert Detroit prison to holding facility for parole violators

The state Department of Corrections plans to close two prisons and convert one of them to a holding facility for alleged parole violators.         

Prison officials say there’s a shortage of housing for felons suspected of violating parole.

“Every day, there are situations with those parolees where we have to put them into custody while we investigate circumstances surrounding alleged parole violations," said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan. "So, right now, we either put them in a van and drive them back to our reception center, or we let them walk out of the parole office.”

 The Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit and an inmate re-entry facility in Caro will be closed. The department will also re-open a shuttered prison in Muskegon as part of the shakeup.

 The shakeup will close the last remaining prison in Detroit, and it will force inmates in the facility to be moved out of the city. Detroit lawmakers say that's a bad idea.

 “Just because people go to prison doesn’t mean that they should be disconnected from their families and support systems that will help them become rehabilitated and better citizens," said Rep. Fred Durhal (D-Deiroit). "Because that’s what this thing is about – is punish them for the crimes that they’ve done, but not cut them off from family and other relatives.”

Durhal says the two prisons that are closing are two of the state’s newest correctional facilities. Corrections officials say the shakeup will cost another $10 million a year. But they say it’s less expensive than other options for dealing with parole violators.

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