Michigan prisons report lowest recidivism rate in state history

Michigan's prison recidivism rate dropped again in 2020 to a record low.
Michigan's prison recidivism rate dropped again in 2020 to a record low.(WJRT)
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 2:39 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan prisoners are returning to prison within three years after their release at the lowest rate in state history.

The Michigan Department of Corrections reported the recidivism rate dropped to 26.6% in 2020, which is down slightly from the previous record of 26.7% set in 2019. Prison officials say Michigan’s recidivism rate is among the lowest in the United States.

Recidivism, which involves a prison inmate being incarcerated again within three years of their release, can happen if prisoners violate the conditions of their parole or commit new crimes during that time. The rate announced Tuesday includes all Michigan prisoners released after 2017.

The state’s recidivism rate peaked at 45.7% in 1998 and has remained around 30% in recent years.

At the same time, the number of inmates in Michigan prisons also has reached a 30-year low of 33,000. That represents a decrease of 21% since 2015.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said the falling prison return rate reflects changes Michigan has made to the criminal justice system designed to make it work better for all residents, including offenders.

“When we build programs and policies that are designed to help people -- victims, survivors, and those who have committed offenses -- we simultaneously make our families, neighborhoods and communities safer and stronger,” Gilchrist said.

The Michigan Department of Corrections is enhancing educational opportunities for inmates to obtain skills for a better life while behind bars. The prison system also partnered with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office to provide inmates with a driver’s license or state ID when they are released.

State prisons also are increasing support for inmates who come in with opioid addictions and providing mentors for parolees when they are released.

“We are proud to see the rate of recidivism continue to decline. It is a clear sign we are on the right path,” said Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington. “Our focus on long-term public safety not only helps those under our supervision and their families, but also the wider community, as having fewer people coming to prison, means less crime and fewer victims.”

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