prisons

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A former juvenile corrections facility in Baldwin could become a prison for immigrants. 

In a press release, State Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) said the current owners of the shuttered North Lake Correctional Facility received a 10-year federal contract. It would allow Geo Group, Inc. to hold non-U.S. citizens for immigration offenses and other crimes.

VanderWall says it would bring more than 300 jobs to the area.

'Irredeemable' wins national award for 'Best Series'

Jun 27, 2018
Aaron Selbig

IPR’s series “Irredeemable" has won two national awards from Public Radio News Directors, Incorporated. 

Michigan Department of Corrections

Michigan’s prisons face a crisis: The state cannot find enough corrections officers to staff them. Older officers are retiring, others are quitting, and there are hundreds of officer positions waiting to be filled.

For corrections officers, like Lorraine Emery, that shortage means an exhausting, dangerous job is getting even tougher.

“When I first go on stage I’m nervous, but as I go I feel exhilarated. I feel like I am the only one out there and that’s amazing.”

Inmates sent to prison as children can sue the state over sexual abuse and other alleged misconduct, under a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit claims minors aged 13 to 17 who were sent to prison were beaten and sexually abused by adult inmates and prison staff. The state tried to get the lawsuit dismissed under a 1999 amendment to Michigan’s civil rights act that barred legal actions filed by inmates under that law.

The court struck that down.

An effective food system in the state’s prisons should go beyond just feeding prisoners. That’s the message of some lawmakers in the state Senate.

The governor announced he wants to end privatized food service in the state’s prisons. Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) said this is an opportunity to go a step further. He’s put together a work group to explore training inmates in food services. Proos said there are thousands of available jobs across the state in the restaurant industry.

Drone technology is quickly becoming more sophisticated and affordable. While that's great for people who want a drone under the Christmas tree - it's a nightmare for prison officials. 

Criminals are using drones to try to smuggle in drugs, cell phones, and other contraband.

The Next Idea

Most offenders in Michigan’s prisons will someday be released. Figuring out what to do next is difficult. Some may lack skills, and employers are wary of hiring people who have done time.

At Ionia's Handlon Correctional Facility, they're addressing this problem with a program called Trading Places. Inmates use their time inside to prepare for trade apprenticeships on the outside.

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Earlier this month, the Traverse City Record-Eagle published a story called “Race Against Time," which told the tale of Ronald Norfleet, an African-American man from Detroit who was sentenced to 56 years in prison for dealing heroin in Grand Traverse County.

Tonight at 8 p.m., Detroit Public Television will debut a new documentary focused on the high rate of imprisonment in the U.S. and Michigan.

It's entitled Pathways to Prison.

Wayne County has more than 150 juvenile lifers, by far the most in the state. As of today, only one of them – and, in fact, the only person among the more than 360 juvenile lifers in the entire state of Michigan – has been given that second chance. 

On June 4, 1975, 17-year-old William Washington and his 26-year-old co-defendant, Kenneth Rucker, robbed a record store. After a scuffle with the store owner, Mr. Rucker took the victim into the back room and shot him to death. This incident led to Washington receiving a life without parole sentence for first degree murder, as well as a second life sentence for armed robbery, for his role as an aider and abettor.

On November 17th of this year – 41 years after he went to prison – William Washington became a free man. 
 

Washington and his mother Lizzie Young joined us in the studio.

 

The 2012 Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama held that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional.

Michigan prosecutors have come under national scrutiny for what critics have argued is an effort to ignore, or at least slowly comply with, the recent Supreme Court rulings that require all juveniles sentenced to mandatory life without parole to have their sentences reconsidered.

When you think of "prison inmates," what's the first thing that comes to mind?

For many, it might be the face of someone convicted for a high-profile, brutal crime.

For others, it may be the image of some vague, homogenous mass of "bad" people who are best locked away. 

Judy Patterson Wenzel begs to differ.

For a convicted felon, getting a shot at an education might begin in prison.

Typically that means job training or a GED.

But a new program offers something more often associated with quiet campuses and ivy-covered walls.

The Calvin Prison Initiative is bringing the liberal arts and theology to inmates at a west Michigan prison.

IPR reporters take home PRNDI awards

Jun 27, 2016
Aaron Selbig

IPR reporters Morgan Springer and Daniel Wanschura were recognized Saturday at the annual Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) awards banquet in St. Louis.

Springer won first place in the category "Soft Feature" for her story Behind bars, transformation through poetry, which tells the story of prisoners who find solace and community in a poetry writing workshop.

There are roughly 42,000 men and women serving time in prison in the state of Michigan. They all have stories of how they got there, ranging from poor choices and a bad upbringing to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shaka Senghor, a leading criminal justice reform activist, is now telling his story. He is currently a mentor to youth, and a leader in helping victims and violent offenders heal through the power of the arts. But he didn’t start out that way.

Imagine that you’re in prison, and you mess up. Maybe you lose your temper and lash out at a corrections officer, or you use your fists to resolve a conflict with your cellmate.

That can land you in “administrative segregation,” also known as solitary confinement.

Too many Americans have languished in solitary, not knowing when they’ll get out and not being allowed privileges like calls from home. And when they do get out, they’re often worse off than they were before they went into solitary, full of anger and seeking retribution.

There are bipartisan bills in the Michigan Legislature aimed at changing the way juveniles are sentenced in court. According to the bill sponsors there are about 600 17-year-olds in Michigan corrections system – almost 350 of those are "juvenile lifers."

What if young people could learn effective, peaceful ways of resolving conflicts – ways to settle a dispute without resorting to violence?

A Roman Catholic nun living in Adrian has been teaching literature to male prisoners at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility for nearly 30 years.

Almost six years ago, Michigan’s only women’s prison settled a huge lawsuit after officers raped multiple female inmates.

Changes have been made since then, but are they enough?

What determines whether a prisoner should be paroled?

In Michigan, that decision is informed by a risk assessment questionnaire called COMPAS.

Sonja B. Starr is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and is the co-director of the Center for Empirical Legal Studies.

There's no denying that state spending and budgets are stretched tight, and it's forcing a fresh look at the soaring costs of our prisons.

What are we really getting for the $2 billion we spend per year on corrections? And how can we trim that corrections bill?

The Michigan attorney general’s office has decided to withdraw subpoenas sent to reporters investigating prison conditions for teenaged inmates.The attorney general’s office asked for all notes and records dealing with interviews connected to a lawsuit alleging sexual assaults against teenaged state prison inmates.   

If you are a 17-year-old and you break a law here in Michigan, you’re going to be tried as an adult.

Michigan is one of nine states that tries 17-year-olds as adults.

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