U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Highlights West Michigan Reentry Initiatives For National Reentry Week
April 24-30, 2016
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — As part of the Department of Justice’s National Reentry Week, April 24–30, 2016, Patrick Miles, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, is raising awareness about challenges faced by formerly incarcerated individuals and the importance of reentry efforts that help returning residents lead law-abiding and productive lives in their home communities.
As explained by U.S. Attorney Miles, offender reentry is part and parcel of the Office’s mission to reduce crime: “As prosecutors, my Assistant U.S. Attorneys work very hard to protect the interests of the United States and ensure the safety of our District’s residents—that generally means investigating cases, prosecuting defendants, and advocating for prison sentences that are long enough to vindicate the interests of the public and deter defendants from future criminal conduct. But our work would not be complete if we ignored the fact that many formerly incarcerated individuals return to criminal activity—perhaps because they cannot find stable employment or suitable housing, they lack supportive personal networks, or they continue to struggle with substance abuse or mental health issues.”
Nationally, approximately two-thirds of formerly incarcerated persons are re-arrested within three years of release and almost half are re-incarcerated. In Michigan, the recidivism rate is 28 percent. “If we take seriously our charge to reduce crime in the Western District of Michigan, we must focus on this population of returning residents and work with other stakeholders to address challenges they face, to help them become positive, law-abiding members of their communities. Ultimately, by increasing the success of formerly incarcerated individuals, we reduce crime and improve the safety and wellbeing of all of our communities’ residents.”
In Michigan, Reentry Week kicked off this past Friday when U.S. Attorney Miles and Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, visited the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan to discuss reentry issues with Bureau of Prisons personnel and attend a job fair. For individuals who will soon be released, the job fair included interviews with employers. Other inmates participated in skill-building opportunities and mock interviews.
This morning, U.S. Attorney Miles hosted a Reentry Roundtable, highlighting some of the many outstanding reentry initiatives in the District. Participants included U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody, the Michigan Department of Corrections, West Michigan Works!, the Grand Rapids Police Department, community service organizations that work with previously incarcerated individuals, including the Criminal Justice Chaplaincy, Hope Network, and KPEP, as well as two businesses that employ formerly incarcerated individuals and actively recruit other businesses to do so as well (Butterball Farms and Cascade Engineering).
With respect to employment opportunities, U.S. Attorney Miles has begun meeting with area Chambers of Commerce to promote an Employer Summit, scheduled for May 26, 2016. The purpose of the Summit is to facilitate discussions with businesses and organizations about employing formerly incarcerated individuals. Employers stand to gain dedicated and loyal employees, and may reap financial benefits through tax incentives. Potential or perceived risks can be minimized, in part, by taking advantage of federal bond insurance. Following the Employer Summit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold a job fair in the fall of 2016, specifically for people who were formerly incarcerated.
Historically, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been involved in various reentry initiatives, including the district’s dedicated federal reentry court, Accelerated Community Entry (ACE), which began in 2005 in Benton Harbor, and now operates at the federal courthouse in Kalamazoo. ACE is an intensive supervision program for individuals on federal supervised release who present a high recidivism risk. Two federal judges, attorneys from the Federal Defender’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a U.S. probation officer, and community service providers meet on a monthly basis to identify and address common reentry pitfalls, before they arise, for each of the participants. The courtroom atmosphere is non-adversarial and positive. Everyone, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, wants ACE participants to succeed.
In 2015, U.S. Attorney Miles introduced “Facing Choices” forums, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Corrections, for state parolees. During the forums, attendees hear dual messages of encouragement and deterrence from state and federal law enforcement officials and prosecutors. “On the one hand, we want parolees to know that, if they re-offend, they will be held accountable. Sentences are more serious for people with prior convictions, and parolees who re-offend are a high priority for law enforcement. But we balance that with the equally important and true message: we want them to succeed on parole, have stable jobs, and avoid further contact with the criminal justice system.” Facing Choices attendees also hear from a formerly incarcerated individual who shares strategies for success while on parole. Community service providers and potential employers attend the event to meet with interested participants. The next Facing Choices Forum is this Friday, April 29, in Battle Creek.