Aggressive law enforcement team sends reoffenders back to prison
By LISA M. REED
IRON MOUNTAIN – A five-year study about the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (MPRI) indicates there were more parolees returned to prison in Dickinson County than any other Upper Peninsula county.
According to the study, which was conducted from 2007-12, Dickinson County had 75 inmates released from prison during this time period. 38 of them were discharged from parole.
Returning to prison while on parole were 22 Dickinson County residents.
In addition, there were 18 sex offenders and 11 of them were discharged from parole in Dickinson County. The other seven were returned to prison.
The Prisoner Re-entry goal is to reduce the number of people who go back to prison, reduce the number of crimes and level of criminal activity.
In an interview, Dickinson County Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards and Sheriff Scott Celello discuss what leads to the prisoner return rate.
Daily News: Why does Dickinson County have more parolees returning to prison than any other county in the U.P.?
Prosecutor Richards attributes more parolees returning to prison to the pro-active, aggressive law enforcement team in Dickinson County.
“There’s not a lot of tolerance for repeat offenders. I also think the interrogation efforts of parole, the prosecutor’s office and the five area law enforcement agencies and judge play a big role,” she said.
Sheriff Celello said the rule is good communication between the probation and parole departments and the judges.
Daily News: What are some factors that you have seen in your career on why reoffenders/parolees are going back to prison?
Richards said repeat drug offenses and drug-related crimes are some factors on why reoffenders find themselves back in front of a judge being resentenced to prison.
She said property crimes are the result of drug addictions and not registering an address change is a violation of the Sex Offender Registry.
Daily News: Do you think too many are being released on parole in Dickinson County?
Richards said the number of parolees directly correlates to the number of reoffenders sentenced.
“If we send more, we will see more come back,” she said.
Those who commit crimes are from the area and when released from prison most come back to their hometown and/or where their family resides.
The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) sets the guidelines and budget cuts are also a factor.
“It is more difficult to return them to prison than it was three or four years ago,” Celello said.
Daily News: What types of crimes are parolees committing to bring attention to themselves?
Richards said many reoffenders are career criminals because of their lifestyle choices.
“They tend to commit crimes to feed their addiction,” she said.
Some of those crimes include writing fraudulent checks and breaking and entering to steal medicines.
Celello said KIND (Kingsford, Iron Mountain, Norway and Dickinson) works closely with the probation and parole department, resulting in arrests and convictions.
“This is another example of disciplines working together,” he said.
Daily News: Is MPRI working in this community?
Richards said the answer to this question depends on the reoffender and how willing they are to change their lifestyle.
Celello said it also depends on the reoffender and where they are in their life and if they want to take advantage of the state programs.
“I don’t think it should get a bad rap,” he said.
Daily News: Can the state afford to keep all these parolees locked up?
Celello and Richards both commented that there are a lot of non-related costs to keeping re-offenders locked up.
He said if they are willing to take advantage of the programs provided to them, there is not the extra cost of sending them back to prison and thus, a savings to society.
Daily News: Is it bad that re-offenders are returned to prison?
“My career is keeping the people of Dickinson County safe. The cost of prison does not come into play,” Richards said.
Richards added she doesn’t think anyone in the criminal justice system finds enjoyment in sending those who break the law to prison.
“If they are a dangerous individual and public safety needs to be protected or if they can be rehabilitated, then it’s a good thing,” she said.
Celello said he is very sympathetic with the budget problems of the MDOC.
“It’s harder and harder to send them to prison, and then the burden falls on the county directly,” he said.
Celello added the MDOC has rehabilitation programs that cannot be provided at the county level.
“Criminal justice is two-fold. There is rehabilitation and punishment, and when there is so much emphasis on rehab, we lose sight of punishment,” Celello said. “Substance abuse, mental health and criminal activity come into play. Unfortunately we can’t address each need.”
The Eastern U.P. Employment and Training Consortium (Michigan Works!) in Sault Ste. Marie serves as the administrative agency to manage the U.P. budget. The agency is partnered with Great Lakes Recovery Centers and the Western U.P. Substance Abuse Services Coordinating Agency to work with the agents to develop and provide the re-entry services.
The U.S. has the highest prison rate and most number of prisoners.
A 2010 study by the PEW Foundation showed that one in 31 American adults is under some form of correctional control, whether prison, jail, parole or probation.
In Michigan, the ratio was one in 27.
Lisa M. Reed’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.