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Program Development

The Program Development and Centralization Section, working together with the Bureau of Healthcare, is responsible for researching and implementing evidence-based practices for cognitive programming.  This team helps develop MDOC core programs, trains programming staff, maintains systems for tracking program delivery and effectiveness, and carries out quality assurance activities within the Offender Success Administration.

Prisoner programming focuses on changing individual thought processes utilizing cognitive restructuring and behavioral techniques. Prisoners are considered for programming while incarcerated based on their criminal history, institutional behavior, assessed risk and need level and are prioritized by their Earliest Release Date (ERD).  Most prisoners will begin programming as they move closer to their Earliest Release Date, rather than at the beginning of their time in prison.
Prisoners must meet specific criteria to be placed into Core Programs and cannot elect or self-refer for participation.  Prisoners are automatically assessed for programming and do not need to request assessment or placement into their recommended programs.  Immediately after recommendations are made, prisoners are added to the appropriate programming waitlists, which are tracked and updated weekly. 
Certain MDOC core programs are only offered in Levels I and II, so it is important that prisoners avoid behavior that may result in misconducts or reclassification to a higher custody level, as that may delay programming.
The goal of core programming is to ultimately reduce the individual's risk to increase their likelihood of success on parole.  Completion of required programming does not guarantee positive Parole Board action.

Risk and Need Principles (R-N-R) 

Risk Principle: The intensity of services should be proportional to the offender’s risk for committing a new crime. The most intensive services should be directed to the highest-risk offenders. 

  • Placing offenders who are at lower risk in programs can actually increase recidivism, so not all prisoners receive recommendations for core programming.
  • Some MDOC programs have different “dosages” which may result in spending more time in the program based on offender risk to increase the likelihood of success.

Need Principle: Treatment should be directed toward the offender’s life problems that are related to recidivism risk (criminogenic needs). With only secondary attention to other life problems (non-criminogenic needs). 

Responsivity Principle: Treatment should be delivered in a manner that is likely to connect with clients. For offenders, this means cognitive-behavioral interventions tailored to their language, culture, and learning style.  Programs are delivered in an in-person group setting by trained facilitators with a significant amount of interaction, “real play”, and practice.

Quality Assurance: The status of CFA Core Program waitlists is continuously monitored by MDOC Leadership.  Waitlists are monitored at the facility level and on a statewide basis.  Staff review resources and current waitlists out to 2 years to ERD to maximize available programming resources. 


The following programs are available at designated facilities and delivered by trained staff as identified below:
Core Programs – Men:
Thinking for a Change (T4C)
Advanced Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT)
Substance Abuse Outpatient (Phase II) 
Violence Prevention Program High (VPP High)
Violence Prevention Program Moderate (VPP Moderate)
Batterer’s Intervention (MiDVP)
Michigan Sex Offender Program (MSOP) 

Core Programs – Women:

Moving On
Seeking Safety
Advanced Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT)
Substance Abuse Outpatient (Phase II)
Beyond Violence
Sex Offender Program (SOP)


Programs by facility

Note: Programs may be added or removed as approved by the Offender Success Administration, Bureau of Health Care Services, or the Parole Board. 


Updated: 04/22/22