Statistics show that about two-thirds of all criminal offenders will commit new crimes after their release from prison. Rather than releasing them at the conclusion of their sentences and hoping for the best, focusing on this population’s successful re-entry into our community is an essential part of a successful crime reduction strategy.
As the statistics indicate, it is not easy for felons to achieve successful community re-entry and become a productive member of society. They may lack job skills, positive role models and employment opportunities. They might have untreated substance abuse or behavioral issues. Unfortunately, community resources often are not readily available or coordinated to assist prisoner re-entry.
To address this challenge, we asked Michigan law enforcement professionals, service providers, corrections and probation officers, as well as judges from every part of the state to gather and network at a prisoner re-entry summit at Cooley Law School in Lansing on May 6. Summit participants will share ideas and best practices in state and federal courts Michigan and also connect with service providers.
Some effective re-entry programs are already underway. For example, in the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, federal re-entry courts are using intensive supervised release programs for some of the highest-risk offenders returning from prison. The returning citizens are required to seek employment or education, refrain from using illegal substances and comply with the terms of their orders of supervision. The success rate in both districts has been very high – former offenders who statistics predict would be the most likely to re-offend are instead successfully adjusting to life as law-abiding citizens.
In the Eastern District of Michigan, call-in programs called Face-To-Face bring in offenders as conditions of their parole or probation to provide them with information to make effective choices. Former offenders are informed of the specific consequences of criminal conduct in light of their criminal records. In addition, they are made aware of services available to help them succeed, such as job opportunities for employees with criminal records and job training programs in our community. A similar program called, “Facing Choices,” is being planned in the Western District of Michigan.
In the state system, the Michigan Department of Corrections views its re-entry program as beginning the moment and inmate arrives in prison. By providing education, job training, drug treatment and other services to offenders while they are in prison, they are better equipped to succeed when they are released.
Tough on crime platitudes make it convenient to dismiss or ignore the offender population, but effective crime control requires developing strategies to enable former offenders to succeed as citizens after they have paid their debt to society.
More information about the summit is available at http://www.justice.gov/usao/mie/news/2014_ReEntrySummitFlyer.pdf
Barbara McQuade is the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan and Patrick Miles, Jr. is the United States Attorney in the Western District of Michigan.
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan