The Field Operations Administration is, broadly speaking,
responsible for overseeing convicts who are not in the state’s prisons. It is
responsible for community corrections, parole, the Special Alternative
Incarceration program ("boot camp"), and probation and parole.
Program: Field operations
Special Revenue Funds:
This appropriation funds field operations which includes
the personnel costs of parole and probation agents, their clerical and
administrative staff, office expenses, and the community work service crews.
Michigan’s probation and parole system should be modeled
after the bail system, which uses private incentives and actors to achieve
important public goals, at minimal cost to the taxpayer. The state should test
the viability of such a plan with a pilot program in several small counties and
in a portion of a larger county.
Bail agents, typically used in pre-trial situations, post
the bond of a defendant, in exchange for a percentage, often 10 percent of the
bond. The bail agent has a powerful incentive, then, to make certain that the
defendant actually shows up in court — if he does not, the agent loses not just
10 percent of the bond amount, but all of it. Bond agents may use a variety of
methods, such as requiring a family member to co-sign the bond, to guarantee
their success. Agents also use bounty hunters, typically other bondsmen or
private investigators, who work on a part-time basis, to recover fugitives. Like
the bondsman, a bounty hunter has a powerful incentive to succeed: no recovery,
With these financial incentives in place, the private bail
system works well — and at no public cost — compared with public release
programs. According to a Department of Justice study, only 15 percent of felony
defendants on surety (monetary) bonds fail to appear, compared with 26 percent
who are released on their own recognizance, and 42 percent for those released
with unsecured bonds. Moreover, felony defendants released on surety bonds had a
9 percent re-arrest rate; those released on recognizance and unsecured bonds
were re-arrested at rates of 15 and 16 percent, respectively.
Under the current system of probation and parole, offenders
are subjected to a number of requirements such as getting a job or enrolling in
school, avoiding known felons, and reporting to probation and parole agents.
Under a privatized probation and parole system, in exchange for release, the
offender would have to post a bond, the amount for which would be set by the
courts or a parole board. Those offenders who violate the terms of their
probation or parole would lose this money, which could then be used in the
criminal justice system.
Many offenders would require the help of a bondsman, who
would then (most likely) enlist family members or friends as co-signers. Money
would come from the offender’s assets (where they exist), his family and
friends, wages earned either in prison or in the free labor market. As is the
case with pre-trial bail, bondsmen would have a strong incentive to monitor the
behavior of their charges, and might employ bounty hunters to pursue absconders.
This financial obligation would integrate offenders back
into their communities: friends and families who would have a greater stake in
helping the offender stay straight. Tying the offender back into the community
is a key element in reducing recidivism. This would, of course, benefit the
broader civil society through reduced crime and reduced spending on criminal law
As a recent study on "Broken Windows Probation" pointed
out, "Achieving the full value of probation [and by extension, parole] … will
require that a long-term commitment be made to investing in and restoring the
community to the business of offender supervision."
 Making an offender’s
status on probation or parole more subject to his or her family and friends, who
have a financial stake in the offender’s integration into civil society, can be
a key first step into a better system of social integration for ex-convicts.
The system would probably need to retain at least some use
of government employees. Public policy in Michigan already calls for offenders
to make at least partial payment for their custody and oversight; this principle
could be applied to an arrangement of private-market bonds for probationers and
parolees. But by shifting the risk of offender relapse to private bondsmen,
offenders and their families, the taxpayers would save perhaps 90 percent of the
current cost of probation and parole. A pilot program could aim for a 10 percent
system-wide savings, or $12 million.
If a pilot program were successful, a statewide application
could allow the state to do away with some of its other, non-prison sentences,
such as those to corrections centers (halfway houses for prisoners nearing the
end of their sentences). Offenders subjected to electronic monitoring could be
supervised under a privatized probation and parole system as well. Savings:
Granholm’s 2005 proposal increases the gross appropriation to
Program: Loans to parolees
All from GF/GP:
This appropriation funds a program whose goal, as stated by
department policy, is to provide parole prisoners with "reasonable maintenance
and subsistence for a two-week period."
 Parolees are to repay the money
within 180 days of receipt.
This program should be eliminated. While the goal of
helping out ex-prisoners adjust to life outside is worthy and even in the
state’s interest, a revolving loan fund could be turned over either to private
bail agents or nonprofit groups that are interested in helping felons as they
re-enter society. Savings: $294,400. Governor Granholm’s 2005 proposal
leaves this appropriation unchanged over the previous year’s budget.