Michigan policymakers have struggled for the last decade to get a handle on corrections spending in the midst of a deteriorating economic climate. As unemployment rates increased and state revenues declined, state spending on corrections grew considerably. Between FY1998 and FY2008, state general fund spending on corrections increased 57 percent from $1.26 billion to $1.99 billion, and by FY2007 accounted for 22.6 percent of state general fund expenditures.[i] Spending on corrections is such a large share of the state budget that in 2008, one in three state employees worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections.[ii]
Despite this significant expenditure of taxpayer resources in the correction system, violent crime rates in Michigan remained too high. The state’s violent crime rate, the highest in the Great Lakes regions, remained unchanged between 2000 and 2007, while the national rate experienced an 8 percent decline.[iii]
In 2009, bipartisan leadership led to the closure of eight unneeded prisons over the protests of the corrections guards union.[iv] This saved $120 million. Moreover, as Michigan consolidates and downsizes its prison system, it is using approximately one-third of the savings in community-based supervision, sanctions, and treatment strategies that hold offenders accountable.
In 2009, the index crime rate in Michigan per 100,000 residents fell to its lowest point since 1965.[v]