County board examines recidivism rates

<<FM NOTES: This article touches on some of the work my friend Danielle Hicks did as a research project in pursuit of her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Wayne State.  The presentation referenced in the article was the culmination of six months of hard work and research into the root causes and potential responses to recidivism in the criminal justice system. Bottom line: we spend a lot of money on the same set of people who get locked up repeatedly. With a “smart on solutions” approach to being “tough on crime” there are ways to save money, lesson repeat offenses, and still keep communities safe. Danielle’s recommendations will help inform the BOC as we further examine policies around the county jail and incarceration. If you are interested in a copy of her presentation, send me a message.>>

County board examines recidivism rates
By Thomas Franz, C&G Newspapers
Posted March 16, 2016

MOUNT CLEMENS — The Macomb County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff’s Office is in the midst of a countywide criminal justice review, and during the week of March 10, the board placed an emphasis on recidivism rates in Macomb County.

Recidivism occurs when a previously incarcerated individual returns to jail or prison after being released.

During a county board meeting March 10, a resolution offered by County Commissioner Fred Miller, D-Clinton Township, was passed unanimously to set out to consider the best practices in reducing recidivism.

“We have to come up with common sense solutions that are smart, that keep our community safe, but at the same time figure out a way to make a transition for inmates so they don’t end up back in our jails within a short timeframe,” said board Chairman David Flynn, D-Sterling Heights.

The passing of the resolution followed a presentation earlier in the week by Danielle Hicks, a Wayne State University graduate student who interviewed 14 county officials about recidivism in the county.

Hicks identified data collection as it pertains to recidivism as a key area for the county to focus on going forward.

“I know that’s not an easy task, but I think if you have that data and you can start looking at different program components that are effective, we’re going to be way more better off than actually making sure that people aren’t going back to incarceration,” Hicks said.

According to Hicks’ presentation, the Macomb County Jail currently has a recidivism rate of approximately 81 percent. The resolution shows that from 2004 to 2007, the statewide average for recidivism was 31 percent.

“Obviously we need incarceration for people who are a risk to the community, but if we’re incarcerating people, we’re just increasing their chances of offending again,” Hicks said. “If we’re not giving them the resources they need to be successful in the community when they get out, chances are they’re likely just going to return.”

The resolution and Hicks’ work also states that there have been 14 instances of overcrowding at the county jail since 2003, which means that within 14 days, the jail must decrease its population to have 25 empty beds.

Data provided by Hicks shows that it costs $84.75 per day to incarcerate an individual, which totals $28,569 per year.

To combat those figures, the sheriff’s office has initiated a criminal justice reform study, and the results of that study are set to be released this summer.

“We’ve hired consultants, and the key emphasis is on incarceration, our current jail infrastructure, our current jail population and where we’re going to be in the next five, 10 and 20 years, what our needs are, what our capacity is going to be,” Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said.

Wickersham added that the study is encompassing all factors related to the county’s criminal justice program, from county to village officials, community corrections, substance abuse and mental health initiatives.

“If there’s a way that we can do things better, we need to see if there are other programs out there, are they viable, are they something we can implement to use in Macomb County to save on jail beds and stays, and make sure the people who are incarcerated are the ones who really need to be incarcerated to protect the community,” Wickersham said.