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‘Our work is making communities safer': Mich. nears record-low recidivism rates

Recidivism in Michigan has hovered around 30% in recent years and it reflects a sharp drop from 1998, when the rate was 45.7%, officials said


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By Nathan Clark

LANSING, Mich. — Recidivism rates for Michigan prisoners released back into the public was at a near record low this year, prison officials say.

The Michigan Department of Corrections announced Wednesday, April 17, 22.7% of those released from prison since 2020 returned to prison within three years. This mean slightly less than 1 of every 4 prisoners released from prison in the last three years ended up back in prison.

Michigan boasts this is the second-lowest rate in state history. The lowest rate Michigan has recorded was in 2019 with 22.1%, according to the Department of Corrections.

“Those who work for the MDOC are called upon to do something remarkable, which is to help individuals change their behavior and direction in life,” Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington said. “This is not easy work, but every single MDOC employee plays a role in producing these outcomes. I’m pleased to see that our work is making communities safer and helping those we work with find success.”

In the latest Policing Matters podcast episode, Dr. Brian Lovins explores the impact of data-driven strategies combined with the human element in corrections. This episode sheds light on innovative approaches to rehabilitation that can significantly reduce recidivism and promote safer correctional environments. A must-listen for professionals seeking to enhance their knowledge and practices in the field of corrections. Listen to the full episode here.

The 2020 release group, which is the most recent group to complete three years of post-release tracking, included over 6,100 individuals who successfully completed their incarceration and community supervision and did not return to prison for either a technical violation of parole or a new crime in the 36 months since their initial release, officials said.

Prison officials attribute the lower rate to its staff and the prison system’s focus on evidence-based practices such as ensuring prisoners are properly assessed and placed into programming for things like violence prevention, substance use disorder, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The corrections department is offering more skill building and vocational programs in the prison as well as taking a more proactive approach for how newly released prisoners are monitored.

“One of our major focuses the last few years is having (parole/probation) agents serve as ‘coaches’ rather than just ‘referees,’” Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Kyle Kaminski said. “That means they still expect accountability from those on their caseload, but (they are) actively work to build their skills and support their success, rather than just waiting for a rule violation to occur.”

Recidivism in Michigan has hovered around 30% in recent years and it reflects a sharp drop from 1998, when the rate was 45.7%, officials said.

Nationally, the recidivism rate lingers at about 62% among data collected form 34 states, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Internationally, Norway holds the record for the lowest recidivism rate with 20% of its prisoners retuning to prison within five years.

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