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State Prison Population Continues to Fall

December 19, 2019

Contact: Chris Gautz,



State Prison Population Continues to Fall

Parole, probation violations and felonies all on decline

Lansing, Mich. - Michigan’s prison population continued its steady and safe decline in 2019, as it has for the past five years.

Data-driven policies, evidence-based research and the Michigan Department of Corrections’ Offender Success model have all led to the reduction, which has brought the state prison population down to 38,005, a number not seen since the mid-1990s.

As the population has declined, those who have been released have largely not been coming back to prison. Parole violations and parolees with new convictions are both down more than 20 percent in the past five years. And the state’s recidivism rate has continued to remain one of the lowest in the nation at 29.1 percent.

“We are proud of the results we have produced for the state of Michigan,” said Heidi Washington, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. “The MDOC is often the forgotten link in public safety, but the reforms and programs our dedicated employees provide every day are making a real difference in creating a safer Michigan.”

Specifically, the number of parole violators returning to prison for new crimes has been reduced by 29 percent over the past five years and the number of parolees returning to prison for technical violations in the same time span has declined 21 percent.

Also on the decline are the total number of felonies adjudicated across the state and consequently, so was the number of people sent to prison in the past five years.

Washington credits MDOC employees with this success, including the corrections officers who interact daily with prisoners and act as role models, the housing staff, healthcare professionals, teachers, counselors and administrators who all have a hand in the success of individuals upon their release from prison. The risk assessment tools and new laws surrounding the parole process and the parole board, as well as the new training and evidence-based practices parole agents are using, are all working in tandem to ensure the best possible outcomes.

National experts in the field also agree.

“The Michigan Department of Corrections' community corrections professionals have worked diligently to improve the lives of people in the justice system who are paying their debt to society. These efforts have borne significant success across many areas of the department, leading to a nearly 18% drop in recidivism over the past 20 years,” said Veronica Cunningham, executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association. “With the administration's continued focus on safe communities and support for justice-involved individuals, Michigan is recognized as an innovative leader in probation and parole services and a model for community corrections nationwide.”

Overall, 2019 was a strong and successful year at the MDOC, with new initiatives, programs and continued investments in staff and public safety.

Earlier this year, the MDOC Wellness Unit was established, which impacts all 13,000 employees. The department began implementing a new computer system which will lead to efficiencies for staff and additional funding was approved to hire hundreds of new corrections officers.

The department also added computer coding and tree trimming and line clearing programs at its Vocational Village in Jackson, neared completion of the third Vocational Village at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti and signed letters of support with nine post-secondary institutions seeking to offer college classes to prisoners through the federal Pell grant program.

“This has been one of the most positive and fulfilling years in my five years as director of the MDOC,” Washington said. “I look forward to another successful year in 2020, providing support for our staff, additional programs for those we supervise and positive results for the people we serve.”