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MDOC Reduces Risk of Homelessness Among Parolees
November 17, 2004
Leo Lalonde (517) 373-6391Contact:
Michigan Department of CorrectionsAgency:
November 16, 2004
The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) hopes to improve the state’s 52 percent parolee success rate by reducing the risk of homelessness among those released from prison.
“If a parolee does not have adequate housing, it is extremely difficult to meet any additional needs such as employment or health care,” said MDOC Director Patricia L. Caruso. “Our commitment on this issue supports Governor Jennifer M. Granholm’s declaration of Homeless Awareness Week which runs from November 14 to November 20.”
The MDOC will be working throughout 2005 to initiate a pilot re-entry program across a nine-county region of northern Michigan with the support of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and Goodwill. As part of the department’s Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (MPRI), the program will assist with rent subsidies for offenders who, in some cases, might otherwise end up homeless.
In addition, the MDOC is working with the Employment Service Agency of the Department of Labor and Economic Growth to secure a federal grant that would provide support services to incarcerated, honorably discharged veterans at risk of homelessness after release from prison.
Transitional housing is critical in avoiding situations that bring about homelessness among those paroled from Michigan correctional facilities and veterans are often at increased risk.
Statistics indicate that about 45 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness and slightly more than 68 percent suffer from alcohol or drug abuse problems. Thirty-three percent have both psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.
Given these characteristics, it is not surprising that a large number of veterans – many who were homeless at the time of their arrest – are incarcerated in state prison systems across the country. Given that alcohol or drug abuse are implicated in about 80 percent of all crimes committed by men and women behind bars, the enormous number of veterans with substance abuse problems is a natural target population for correctional programs that hope to reduce crime and homelessness, particularly programs that affect inmates who otherwise would not be paroled.
“By placing these veterans in transitional housing and providing veteran-specific assistance programs, the probability of making a successful transition from incarceration to self-sufficient employment within a reasonable period of time would be greatly increased,” said Dennis Schrantz, Deputy Director of the MDOC Policy and Strategic Planning Administration and head of the re-entry initiative. Deputy Director Schrantz is also working with MSHDA and other state departments on a think-tank to eliminate homelessness for families and children in Michigan.
The veteran’s re-entry initiative would also include a liaison with existing community programs and services which might otherwise be difficult for recently released veterans to find or access on their own. If full funding can be obtained, the veteran would receive housing assistance, career counseling, employment training, job search assistance and life skills.
“These men are at a higher risk for failure during their parole,” added Deputy Director Schrantz. “With some specialized assistance, we can address their specific needs, put them in touch with the community services that can offer support and thereby increase their chances for a successful parole. We feel strongly that veterans who faithfully served our country deserve a second chance once they have been released from prison.”