II. Administration and Programs

Program: Substance-abuse testing and treatment



Federal Funds:








Program Description:

This appropriation funds programs funded under a U.S. Department of Justice grant (Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners), which provides a 272-bed, in-prison “therapeutic community” for low-risk prisoners nearing their release date. In-house programs are followed by community care. The program is conducted at Cooper Street Correctional under a contract with Western Michigan University.

Recommended Action:

The state could contract out for the provision of all substance-abuse programs with for-profit or non profit firms, such as Wackenhut, Inc., Corrections Corporation of America, or Cornell Corrections, Inc.

To the DOC’s great credit, drug abuse among prisoners has declined dramatically in Michigan, from 9 percent to 0.5 percent in roughly a decade.[12] Maintaining a captive audience, conducting strict surveillance, and limiting prisoners’ contact with the outside world helps facilitate success.

This decrease in drug use has been accompanied by a huge increase in spending on substance-abuse programs. Since 1990, spending has increased 1,700 percent, going from $1,306,700 to $23,869,150.[13] In large measure, this is due to vigorous expansion of treatment. The number of admissions for outpatient and residential treatment of offenders in camps or prisons jumped from 579 in 1989 to 5,806 in 2001, and community residential program (halfway houses) admissions increased from 382 to 1,773 during the same time. The increases were particularly dramatic for offenders on probation and parole: from 67 to 8,656 for parolees and from 0 to 4,441 for probationers.[14] For 2001, the treatment was roughly split between outpatient (5,004 individuals) and education (5,121), with a smaller number (762) in residential programs.[15]

Using community groups to provide substance-abuse counseling and services could save the state millions — and promote a stronger civil society. Privately run prisons and jails, for example, show promise of getting better results at a lower cost. The Dallas County (Texas) Judicial Treatment Center is a privately managed operation, owned by Cornell Corrections, Inc. This 300-bed residential, community-based treatment program has won favorable notice from the Council of State Governments, which commended the program for its “significantly lower arrest rates” for offenders who completed the program. The 11 percent recividism rate (after one year) was half the rate of non-participants, and won the facility a “best practice” award from the American Correctional Association.[16] In Florida, the state’s Corrections Commission observed that private prisons “provided additional educational, vocational, substance abuse and other programs for inmates, whereas state-operated facilities have not kept pace with providing programs.” Inmates in Minnesota gave higher marks to substance-abuse programs in privately run prisons than to those in government-run prisons.[17] Savings of 7 to 10 percent are not uncommon when such programs are outsourced to for-profit groups. When estimating the savings for this section of the budget, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy will use 7 percent. Savings: $1,405,285.