services. Taylor himself may lead a workshop on how and where to find affordable dress clothes at Ann Arbor thrift shops. With the support MPRI provides, “we’re addressing people’s primary criminogenic risks,” King says. “The evidence available shows that if certain criminogenic risks are identified and addressed, then the
team has also compiled statistical data on thousands of former Michigan prisoners. While the professors are still analyzing their data, by next year their published research will show the impact that age, relationships, neighborhoods, and employment have on recidivism. It’s an area that has been understudied, they say, and one where research may help direct future programs. Harding, Morenoff, and King also hope to raise community awareness about the struggles returning citizens face. “People in society tend to see our participants only as ‘felons’ and ‘criminals,’” says
likelihood of a return to prison is greatly
recent U-M graduate Jennifer Lin (’10). Lin is an intern at MPRI and says she doesn’t see
reduced.” These risks include lack of
former prisoners like Taylor that way. “His record does not define him and who he is,”
stable housing, unemployment, substance
she says. “If more people saw returning citizens as just people then maybe they would
abuse relapse, and “criminal thinking,”
understand why we do the work we do.”
among others. “If we find people housing, and they get a job, and they’re clean and sober, and they still rob a bank, then we haven’t been successful,” King says. “Although I’ll tell you the likelihood of that happening is greatly reduced.” Preliminary tracking by the Michigan
King agrees. “There is no common understanding that people have paid for their crimes and that the debt has been paid in full,” she says. “There’s always the sense that they have to keep paying and paying until they die.” King believes in second chances, but for someone like Taylor, she says it was more like his tenth chance. “Sometimes it’s not the second chance, but another chance to get it right.” n Rebekah K. Murray is the Assistant Editor of LSA Magazine.
Department of Corrections from the start of MPRI (2005) through mid-May 2010 shows 33 percent fewer returns for parole violations or new crime compared to baseline expectations. That percentage translates into 2,793 fewer returns to prison, so far. “That means fewer victims,” King says, as well as safer communities. “As we learn more and more about what works and as we implement evidencebased practices into what we’re doing, we can impact the recidivism rate even more,” King says. But, she admits, “there are still a lot of holes in our knowledge.” Morenoff and Harding are working to change that. “We want to know who suc-
A CLOSER LOOK AT LOCKUPS
ceeds, who fails, and why,” Harding says. “Why are some people able to come out of prison, get themselves settled, and not get into trouble, and others get back in prison’s revolving door?” The professors are both on the advisory board for the Washtenaw County MPRI, and for the last several years, they have been gathering data that will help identify the factors that influence a successful reentry after prison. They have carefully followed 24 returning citizens for four years, noting what has happened to each
n n n
Roughly one in every 100 adults is behind bars. If those on parole or probation are included, one in 31 adults is under correctional supervision. It costs $89.91 per day to house an inmate in a Michigan prison, which is more than the national average of $79.
Michigan has the sixth largest prison population in the nation, according to 2008 statistics. Federal prisons house 60 percent more inmates than they were designed for.
Today, roughly 45,000 people are in Michigan’s prisons. America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany, and 12 times more than Japan, in proportion to total populations.
In 1970, the number of Americans behind bars was below one in 400, compared to today’s one in 100. The number of drug offenders in federal and state lock-ups has increased 13-fold since 1980.
Sources: The Economist, July 2010; Michigan Department of Corrections; Bureau of Justice Statistics; Pew Center for the States.
person since their release. The research
SPRING 2011 / LSA Magazine
Published on May 10, 2011