In a society governed by the rule of law those who break the law must be held accountable, especially those who pose a threat to the safety of themselves or others. The “tough on crime” mentality that has driven policy makers for the last several decades resulted in a criminal justice system built to punish, not necessarily rehabilitate, offenders often in the most expensive and least effective way. There are ways to be tough on crime but also smart on solutions.
Consider that the recidivism rate for offenders in the Macomb County Jail is 80%. Consider also that it costs Macomb County $85 each day to keep an individual in jail. This means that county taxpayers spend about $1.3 million each year to lock up the same people again and again. Clearly there is a financial incentive, not to mention human one, to finding a better way to deal with offenders.
For the past six months, I have had the good fortune of working with Danielle Hicks, a Master’s student at Wayne State researching the causes, effects, and policy responses to recidivism in Macomb County. This project culminated with a presentation to the Board of Commissioners last month and the passage of the following resolution:
2016 RESOLUTION NO. R16-043
Official Resolution of the Board of Commissioners Macomb County, Michigan
Resolution Advocating Macomb County Criminal Justice Stakeholders to Consider Best Practices in Reducing Recidivism Rates Among Macomb County’s Offending Population
Commissioner Fred Miller On Behalf of the Board of Commissioners, Offers the Following Resolution:
WHEREAS, since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world; and
WHEREAS, based on data from the PEW Center on the States, Michigan had a recidivism rate of 38.0% from 1999-2000 and 31.0% from 2004-2007 including both new crimes and technical violations, while data from the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office indicates that 80-82% of the offenders in the Macomb County Jail have previously been incarcerated; and
WHEREAS, in 1999, most Macomb County probationers had a history of alcohol or drug abuse and according to the Macomb County Sherriff’s Office, 85% of Macomb County offenders are incarcerated due to charges directly or indirectly related to drugs; and
WHEREAS, age, gender, race, education level and skill, length and severity of criminal history, conduct during incarceration, and the length of incarceration also impact the potential for recidivism; and
WHEREAS, since 2003, there have been 14 instances of overcrowding at the Macomb County Jail, which has led to declaring numerous states of emergencies; and
WHEREAS, the Michigan House Fiscal Agency found that incarcerating one individual in Michigan for one year costs $28,569 without health care and mental health services, while Macomb County specific data reveals that it costs $84.75 daily, despite alternative options costing between $10 to $30 daily; and
WHEREAS, research by the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies and the Campbell Collaboration has revealed that incarceration is not effective in reducing recidivism rates and has the potential for increasing recidivism; and
WHEREAS, alternative methods to incarceration such as Macomb County’s adult and juvenile drug courts, mental health courts, veteran’s treatment courts, as well as the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Program have proven effective in reducing recidivism rates for program participants, while other Macomb County programs such as Community Corrections, probation and parole, as well as Community Mental Heath’s Pre- and Post-Booking Jail Diversion programs have reduced costs to the criminal justice system; and
WHEREAS, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office has initiated Criminal Justice Reform Study, which also evaluates the county’s recidivism rates and related issues, and is ongoing, and is scheduled to be released in the end of summer 2016, the findings of which be eagerly anticipated by the Board of Commissioners to further inform this issue.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Macomb County Board of Commissioners advocates for criminal justice stakeholders of Macomb County to consider the following best practices for reducing recidivism rates:
1. Adopt the Michigan Department of Correction’s definition for recidivism adjusted to the setting of Macomb County – a return to incarceration within three years after release as a result of a violation or new conviction.
2. Expand and share data collection on recidivism among Macomb County criminal justice stakeholders for the purpose of program development.
3. Establish a task force to address recidivism in the County, which will allow for collaboration and data sharing among criminal justice stakeholders in Macomb County. The task force should include mental health and/or substance abuse professionals.
4. Increase access to pretrial services, as well as decrease the length of pretrial detentions.
5. Raise awareness of the impact of mental health and substance abuse issues on recidivism and the special needs of offenders with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
6. Adopt alternative practices to incarceration of low to mid level offenders, as well as provide similar services to high-risk offenders during incarceration and upon community reentry.
7. Establish a community reentry program for offenders released from jail, rather than only those released from prison, who are currently served through the Prisoner ReEntry Initiative.
8. Increase support for currently existing alternatives to incarceration: Macomb County Community Corrections, Macomb County Community Mental Health, Macomb County Parole and Probation offices, the Prisoner ReEntry Initiative, as well as Macomb County’s Specialty Courts including Drug Courts, Juvenile Courts, Mental health Courts, and Veterans’ Courts