Michigan spends approximately $2 billion each year to house prisoners, with Department of Corrections spending accounting for 19% of the total state General Fund—more money than higher education spending. As the 2017 state budget negotiations heat up this month, sweeping reform is needed to safely reduce the prison population. The League supports evidence-based alternatives to incarceration along with reentry services that keep individuals from reoffending or violating conditions of probation and parole and successfully reintegrate prisoners and reunite families. The League’s priorities for 2017 include increased funding for mental health services, full funding for Hepatitis C drug treatment for infected prisoners, and investment in effective reentry programs that provide opportunities for education and training and connections to future employers.
Since the release of the governor’s budget proposal in February, the House and Senate have approved their own versions of the 2017 budget for the Department of Corrections (DOC). The second consensus revenue estimating conference will be held on May 17th, where state economists and budget experts will brief legislators on updated state revenue estimates and set final spending targets. It is expected that joint House/Senate conference committees will meet right after the May 17th conference to negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions and come to agreement on the final budget bill that will be voted on by both houses and ultimately approved by the governor.
This brief compares the Department of Corrections budget bills that were approved by the House and Senate with the governor’s executive budget recommendations made in February, and includes the League’s recommendations for the final budget.
Hepatitis C Drug Treatment: The governor recommended $17.3 million for Hepatitis C treatment for Michigan prisoners—$3.4 million for 2017 on top of the $13.9 million already transferred into the 2016 budget to cover Hepatitis costs this year. In 2013, approximately 4,445 prisoners, or 10% of the prison population, tested positive for Hepatitis C. With approximately 1,000 prisoners released from prison each year, many prisoners with Hepatitis C will return to their communities still suffering from—and potentially spreading—the disease if not treated.
- Senate: The Senate did not increase funding for Hepatitis C treatment.
- House: The House agreed with the governor to provide funding, however at a lower level of $12.3 million.
The League supports the governor’s recommendation to provide adequate and humane care for prisoners, including medical treatment, along with protecting the general public from infection from untreated prisoners who return to their communities.
Mental Health Services: The governor included $2 million for 17 new employees to address waiting lists for mental health services in prisons. Approximately 1 in 5 prisoners currently receive some form of mental health treatment.
- Senate: The Senate provided $1 million for nine new mental health employees and related services.
- House: The House agreed with the governor to provide $2 million for 17 new employees and related services.
The League supports the governor’s funding level, which may bring the state closer to providing needed mental health services to the high proportion of mentally ill inmates. Prisons and jails house more mentally ill people than psychiatric hospitals in Michigan.
Substance Abuse Services for Probation Violators: The governor recommended $750,000 for a new 30-day program to prevent relapse and serve as an alternative to residential treatment for prisoners on probation that violate due to substance use. Approximately 250 probation violators would be treated.
- Senate: The Senate did not include funding for this initiative.
- House: The House agreed with the governor and provided the full recommended amount of $750,000.
The League supports the governor’s recommendation to improve rehabilitation programs for parole violators.