North Flint Former Prisoner Project
Today, over 44,000 Michigan citizens are incarcerated in Michigan prisons and hundreds of thousands are serving probation or parole sentences in the community. Between 1980 and 2010, Michigan’s prison population grew at 29 times the rate of the state’s total population. Likewise, correction’s expenditures increased exponentially over the past 25 years, rising from 3% of Michigan’s General Fund in 1980 to over 20% today, with approximately $2 billion in yearly corrections appropriations. The majority of prisoners are people of color. While African Americans make up only 14% of the state’s population, the Michigan Department of Corrections reports that 56% of all prisoners were “nonwhite” – a number, which is low, given that persons who identify as Latino or Arab American are often categorized as White. Mass incarceration takes a significant toll on the families of those who are confined to prison or jail – particularly the children of incarcerated parents. Across the country, less than half of returning citizens are employed 8-months after release. In Michigan the statistics are much worse; despite prisoner reentry reform, only about 26% of parolees are employed.
This trend of mass incarceration is not only financially unsustainable for the state but it also threatens the civil liberties and rights of the individuals who are convicted and incarcerated in Michigan, and their families. Even after serving time, as former prisoners, their “right to prosper” is deeply affected. Children are the innocent victims of imprisonment and negative effects can linger for generations. These factors are evident in Genesee County where the data consistently shows a returning citizen population of approximately 480 persons per year with higher risk levels (more serious crimes and more prior prison sentences for assaultive crimes) and more pronounced needs (higher rates for drug and alcohol problems and mental illness). Based on the latest data available from the Michigan Department of Corrections, Genesee County state prisoners – about half of which return to North Flint – have higher risk than the state as a whole for history of violence, current crimes of violence, social isolation, substance abuse, criminal personality, criminal thinking, financial problems, vocational and educational deficits and residential instability.
But in spite of the daunting statistics, due to the concerted efforts of local leaders, led by the Genesee County Prisoner Reentry Steering Team, the 74% success rate of former prisoners from Genesee County is better than the state as a whole and better than any major urban center in the state. The goal of this project is to cut the 26% failure rate of North Flint former state prisoners by 50% in three years by working collaboratively in the North Flint community to improve pre and post release case planning and management with additional services that support sustainable housing and employment so that North Flint’s returning citizens can contribute and thrive.
With support from the Ruth Mott Foundation, the North Flint Former Prisoner Project (NF-FPP) intends to provide every returning citizen released from Michigan prisons to North Flint will tools and support needed to succeed in the community. In order to make this vision a reality, the mission of the Project is to improve public safety by reducing crime through implementation of a seamless plan of services and supervision developed with each returning citizen—delivered through state and local collaboration—from the time they enter prison, through their successful transition, reintegration, and aftercare in the North Flint community.
Our primary service agency partner, the M.A.D.E. Institute (Money, Attitude, Direction and Education), has a mission to lead formally incarcerated individuals down a path of empowerment, self discovery and personal transformation. Incorporated in 2015, the Institute’s vision is a community where ex-offenders and at-risk-youth have equal access to employment, education full participation in the political, economic and cultural life of the community. M.A.D.E.’s purpose is to develop successful re-entry programs for ex-offenders returning back into the community from prison, and youth returning from detention and/or incarceration who so often lack the support needed to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Our primary government partner is the Genesee County Reentry Steering Team, which oversees the reentry related operations of the Genesee County Community Corrections Division (GCCC) and brings enormous capacity and competency to the table and a decade long history of working with North Flint’s returning citizens.
Stay tuned for more information as the NF-FPP progresses!
MLive: Ruth Mott Foundation awards $1.3M to support north side of Flint, Apr. 13, 2016