By STELLA THEVENIN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan’s parole system could help the Department of Corrections save money.
The DOC budget for the past three to four years has been $1.7 billion and in two years the department has also cut $75 million from its budget, said Director William Overton.
“We spend $4.7 million a day running the DOC,” he said.
Overton said it costs the department much less to keep people in the community than in prison.
The state spends $1,600 when prisoners are put on parole or probation and $28,000 to keep prisoners in minimum or maximum cities.
“One of our goals is to keep people out of prison, and our system is more than warehousing people,” Overton said.
The department has programs for parolees with technical violations, he said.
Technical violations include violating a condition of parole.
Russ Marlan, public information for the department, said, “One of the best alternatives to imprisonment is putting people on parole.”
Michigan has 14,000 people on parole.” Marlan said.
“The DOC parole system has a 60 percent success rate, which includes parolees who are not returned to prison,” he said.
Forty percent of the parolees who are unsuccessful include the 28 percent who have technical violations and 12 percent who receive a new sentence, he said.
Marlan worked, as a parole officer in Detroit for five years.
“My caseload consisted of sex offenders, who were placed under maximum parole supervision.”
Under that policy, he met with the parolees once a week.
“Overall the system is good because he got a manageable caseload,” he said.
Parole officers help parolees find jobs and get them involved in an education program so they can maintain their lives outside the prison system, Marlan said.
Alicia Jones, a parole officer at the Lansing Parole office, said her caseload consists of 75 percent sex offenders, while the rest are parolees who committed other crimes.
“It is beneficial when the parolees are able to be rehabilitated and turn their lives around,” she said.
Jones said community programs also helps the parolees.
She said 50 percent of the parolees she supervises are employed.
One of the most important aspects of her job as a parole officer, “is when the parolees are able to show people that they can turn their lives around by finding jobs so they can help their families,” Jones said.
She said some of the parolees do community service work or DOC works with employment agencies to help them find jobs.
Overton said DOC lost, an additional $16 million in funding this week, and that the department hopes that despite budget cuts, it will still be able to fund community programs so that the state can continue to help parolees stay out of prison.
However, Overton said, “We might have to cut these programs in the near future.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By STELLA THEVENIN