The Re-Entry Report is an open forum discussion that addresses the current affairs in the re-entry community and raises awareness of the movement. This forum also interacts with the State Appellate Defender's Office for updates on current legislation.
NO REENTRY IS THE SAME: REEVALUATING MICHIGAN’S PAROLE SYSTEM
OP-ED BYEDWARD (BARAKAH)SANDERS,LLMSW
The Michigan Department of Corrections has long prided itself on its layered security system, which ranges from medium-security facilities to supermax prisons. The purpose, of course, is to ensure public safety. However, there is an issue that often goes unnoticed - regardless of the type of facility they are held in, nearly everyone within the state's prison system is funneled into the same parole system once they have served their sentence unless they are discharged without parole. This one-size-fits-all approach to parole enforcement, while well-intentioned, raises questions about its efficiency, the allocation of tax dollars, and the false sense of security it provides to the public.
Michigan, like many other states, has a parole system that allows for the release of individuals who are incarcerated before they have served their full sentences. Parole is typically granted based on an individual's behavior while in prison, their risk to the community, and other factors. The goal of parole is to help individuals reintegrate into society and reduce the prison population. A study published in the "Criminal Justice Policy Review" in 2018, titled "The Impact of Parole Supervision on Recidivism," suggests that a one-size-fits-all parole system can lead to over-supervision of some individuals, straining resources and potentially making reintegration into society more challenging.
It's crucial to reevaluate the current system, as not everyone who has been convicted, sentenced, and confined necessarily needs to be on parole. This becomes apparent when we examine the case of Michigan's Juvenile Lifers Without Parole, a population that boasts an astonishingly low 1% recidivism rate according to a report by The Sentencing Project. These individuals, who have served some of the longest sentences, have often never been granted parole, or if they have, it's been for a minimal duration. This highlights a serious discrepancy in how the parole system is applied, and it is a testament to the fact that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't always fit the diverse needs of the incarcerated population.
A report by the National Institute of Justice titled "What Works in Offender Rehabilitation" emphasizes the importance of evidence-based, individualized approaches to parole and reentry, as such strategies are more likely to lead to successful reintegration and reduce recidivism.
The problem doesn't end with parole; it extends to the way local prosecutors and state legislators have used their public platforms to vilify and demonize certain groups within the incarcerated population for political gain. The fear-mongering tactics they employ to gather votes have real consequences on public perception and policy decisions. This misguided approach prioritizes scoring political points over the actual safety of the community.
Multiple instances of politicians using fear-mongering tactics to gain support in the context of criminal justice are documented in "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," and other major news outlets. These tactics can indeed have detrimental effects on public perception and policy decision-making.
Moreover, there's a disheartening lack of celebration and acknowledgment of Michigan and other states' unprecedented recidivism success rates. The focus on political conflict of interest seems to overshadow the achievement of safer communities. This undermines the potential for progress and innovation in the criminal justice system, stifling any attempts to make meaningful change. The Michigan Department of Corrections' annual reports, as well as research from institutions like the Vera Institute of Justice, highlight Michigan's notable achievements in reducing recidivism rates. Despite these successes, the focus on political conflicts often overshadows these accomplishments.
Various reports from state budget offices and think tanks have raised concerns about the efficient allocation of taxpayer dollars within the criminal justice system, suggesting that more individualized and evidence-based approaches could lead to cost savings. These sources provide support for the concerns raised in the text and the proposed shift towards a more nuanced and evidence-based parole system in Michigan. It's high time for a critical reevaluation of Michigan's parole system. Rather than blindly subjecting all released inmates to the same set of restrictions, it's essential to adopt a more nuanced, evidence-based approach that considers the individual's history, behavior, and rehabilitation while in prison. By doing so, we can allocate taxpayer dollars more efficiently, reduce the false sense of security, and honor the true purpose of the criminal justice system: to promote rehabilitation and ensure public safety. It's time to put the welfare of our communities ahead of political agendas and celebrate the successes that have been achieved in reducing recidivism.
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