Pugsley Correctional Facility to Close

Michigan's prison population on the decline

Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley, Michigan, is slated to close later this month, on Sept. 24.

The state’s FY 2016-17 budget calls for the Department of Corrections to close the Pugsley Correctional Facility to save money, a compromise struck by a conference committee between the Senate proposal to close two prisons, and the House plan to close none. Lawmakers expect that closing the 1,342-bed facility will save $22 million.

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Declining prisoner population made the move possible: the department reports that the population has declined to under 42,000 from an all-time high of over 51,500 in March 2007. It has closed and consolidated more than 25 facilities since 2005.

The Department of Corrections attributes the prisoner population decline to decreases in felony court sentences and, therefore, fewer prison admissions. It reports that 2015 was the third year in a row in which prison intake declined, especially among prisoners incarcerated for new crimes.

These findings are consistent with research showing a dramatic decline in violent crime both statewide (where current crime rates are nearly half of what they were at their 1986 peak) and nationally.

The Michigan State Police credits a policing program called the Secure Cities Partnership with improving public safety in Michigan. The MSP 3rd District Commander Capt. Gene Kapp told a Senate subcommittee that violent crime fell 40% in Saginaw and more than 45% in Flint since 2012, when the Secure Cities program began. Property crimes also dropped by 34% and 40%, respectively.

Secure Cities relies on an effort known as “community policing,” which operates by putting more law enforcement officers on the streets to build ties with members of the local community. A recent report by the Police Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation underscores the importance of trust between communities and law enforcement agencies.

The report examines the experiences of foot patrol officers in five cities: Cambridge, CT, Evanston, IL, Kalamazoo, MI, New Haven, CT and Portland, OR. It found that, in addition to increasing a sense of safety among community members and job satisfaction among officers, foot patrols encouraged more people to tell the police about crimes and other concerns. The additional information made it easier for the department to solve problems and prevent crimes.

Preventing crime may be the single most important cost-savings measure available. The University of Michigan estimates that a murder costs society over $1.5 million in medical care and the loss of property, public service, and future earnings – not to mention the $35,000 annual cost of imprisoning the murderer.

Law and policymakers should keep those considerations in mind when addressing the tremendous cost of corrections in this state. As the Pugsley Correctional Facility closure demonstrates, safely and successfully reducing the prison population depends heavily on our ability to continue preventing and reducing crime. This occasion is an ideal time to review the outcomes of our law enforcement practices and to focus on the ones that are proven to be effective.

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