Simon Brass / Flickr

The state's prison system is in line for some budget cuts like a lot of other parts of the state government.

Now, a recent audit says the prison system could save more in prescription costs.

From the Associated Press:

DETROIT (AP) - State auditors say Michigan could have saved millions of dollars by choosing lower-cost alternatives to a mental-health drug that is widely prescribed in prisons.

The audit released Friday says psychotropic drugs are dominating the cost of prescriptions in the prison system. They added up to more than $8 million from January through July last year - 41 percent of all pharmaceuticals.

Seroquel is the most prescribed antipsychotic drug. Auditors say the Corrections Department could have saved $350,000 a month by switching just half of those prescriptions to a drug called Risperdal.

The Corrections Department says it's taking steps to control costs. The audit also found that prisoners are not being charged for over-the-counter medicine even if they can afford it.

Old prison breathes new life

Mar 7, 2011
user djbuchanan / Flickr

For this week’s installment of “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with Judy Krasnow, resident and tour guide of the Armory Arts Village in Jackson. Located in what once served as Michigan’s first penitentiary, the Armory Arts Village is a residential community originally set up to provide living, working, and presentation space for artists.

Derek Key / Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state should save money in the corrections budget by cutting the costs of incarceration - not by closing more prisons or releasing more inmates.

Schuette says he hopes that's the strategy Governor Rick Snyder will display when he unveils his budget proposal on Thursday.

Schuette says he advised the governor to focus on reducing the cost-per-inmate by bidding out more prison services:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Next week, Governor Rick Snyder will deliver a budget plan that his own Lt. Governor has described as an ‘atomic bomb’ of spending cuts. Michigan’s Corrections Department is expected to be a prime target. 

Michigan is facing a state budget deficit next year estimated at $1.8 billion. 

Michigan spends nearly $2 billion a year housing more than 44,000  inmates. The number of inmates has declined by more than 7,000 during the past five years.  And the number of prison employees has shrunk by nearly 4 thousand in the past decade.  

Still, conservative groups say more savings can be wrung out of the Corrections Department with privatization.

Mel Greishaber is with the prison guards union.  He warns privatizing some prison jobs might save money, but it will increase security problems.  

“Often...civilians who come in and work are not as sensitive to the safety issues and security issues that they need to be.”  

Greishaber is also worried about the level of experience state lawmakers have with Michigan's prison system.  A large percentage of state lawmakers are new to the job.   Greishaber notes that few members of the largely first term legislature have ever even visited a state prison.

 “Everyone comes in with preconceived notions.  They’ve watched movies which almost always are not the real life situation."

Simone Ramella / flickr

It is too early to tell if Governor Rick Snyder’s executive order to move the job of paroling prisoners from Governor’s appointees back to the Department of Corrections will save money. The order also reduces the number of Parole Board members from 15 down to 10. All prisoners who want to be released before their sentence is up needs a decision from the parole board.

The move will save the state some money on some salaries, but the real savings will only happen if the new Board can continue to parole prisoners as fast or even faster than the old board. 

Matthew Grabowski is with the Michigan State Senate Fiscal Agency.

Michigan spends a little over $35,000 a year to house your typical inmate. It’s usually less expensive to supervise an individual in the community, whether it’s through traditional parole or whether we use some kind of electronic monitoring like a GPS tether. Those ranges are from maybe, say as little as $2,000 a year, up to around $10,000.

Grabowski also said more details are needed before it's known if the executive order may signal more changes to the Parole Board.  

It’s quite possible the parole board could change the way it approaches the parole process entirely. So it’s difficult to forecast sort of what the fiscal impact will be until the Governor and Director of the Department of Corrections sort of lay out a process for how the new parole board will operate. 

Parole approval rates for every class of criminal offender have gone up since 2008.

Prison bars
Ken Mayer / Flickr

Updated 2:23 p.m.:

Michigan Department of Corrections public information officer John Cordell  reacted to the report by saying, "This is why we do audits. It looks like we came up short. We'll be sure to correct our procedures in the future."

12:11 p.m.:

Auditors say officials at Newberry Correctional Facility in the upper peninsula haven't been listening in enough on their prisoners.

The Associated Press reports:

The prison is supposed to document that it monitors at least 50 phone calls a month by inmates. State auditors say they fell short of that target by half during a three-month period earlier this year.

The auditors said phone monitoring is an important part of keeping prisoners from violating prison policies or state law.

The medium security prison in Newberry can hold 1,072 people.

The Michigan Department of Corrections holds more than 43,960 prisoners in 34 correctional facilities around the state.

Flickr user Still Burning / Creative Commons

The tiny village of Baldwin is hoping a private prison contract bringing thousands of inmates from California to Michigan will help revitalize the area. Baldwin is 65 miles north of Grand Rapids.