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With criminal justice reform a part of the national dialog, preparing prisoners with meaningful employment skills is a growing priority within the corrections environment. Among the many initiatives to address this issue in Michigan, Michigan State Industries (MSI) is a manufacturer operating within the Michigan Department of Corrections that has been providing work opportunities to prisoners since 1943, one of fifty such programs in the nation.
Compared to the average rates of recidivism among Michigan inmates, those who participated in Michigan State Industries' work programs are significantly less likely to reoffend. This saves Michigan's taxpayers thousands of dollars per inmate per year. MSI is regulated under the Correctional Industries Act of 1968 and is authorized to engage in manufacturing, sales and service to 501(c)3 non-profit organizations, government and tribal nations. MSI frequently turns down projects where they would compete with private sector businesses.
For the fourth year in a row, the recidivism rate in Michigan has declined and now stands at 22.1 percent, again making it the lowest rate in state history. The recidivism rate measures the percentage of individuals who return to prison within three years of release. The new rate places Michigan fourth best in the nation. Last year, the department’s recidivism rate stood at 23.6 percent. The year before that it was at 26.7 percent.
Skills That Last A Lifetime
Michigan State Industries employs 550 inmates at 12 facility operations across 9 State correctional institutions. These programs teach inmates valuable skills which will help them upon release. Several of these operations provide certifications such as ABO (American Board of Opticianry) certifications, and Hi-Lo Certifications, which make it far simpler to reintegrate into society, and far less likely for recidivism.
Our Guiding Principles
- Provide opportunities for adults in custody to learn marketable skills and gain from experience
- Instill and promote a positive work ethic
- Contribute to the economic self-sufficiency of working prisoners and their families
- Actively explore joint ventures with private vendors and manufacturers
- Constantly seek to extend our capabilities and our customer base
- Realize 0% recidivism through work skills training and employment for MSI parolees
History of Southern Michigan Prison
In 1922, the state began to operate its own factories but continued to sell the products on the open market. Over the years Michigan prisoners have mined coal, manufactured bricks and tile, cigars, tombstones and binder twine. In 1935, Congress passed the Hawes-Cooper Bill, prohibiting the shipment of prison-made goods in interstate commerce. In 1937, the Michigan Legislature adopted a bill which limited the sale of prison products to state institutions and Departments and other wholly tax-supported agencies. One industry long associated with prisons has been the production of license plates. The first plates, produced before 1910, were made of leather and used metal house numbers. It was in 1918 that the prison near Jackson first began producing automobile license plates along with street and road signs.
Correctional Industries Act:
In 1980, the state Correctional Industries Act was amended to allow MSI to sell its products to nonprofit organizations, to governmental institutions in other states and to the federal government. It allows Michigan agencies, offices and departments to buy goods from Industries if they are comparable in price and quality to those produced elsewhere and can be supplied in a reasonable time period.
The amendment let MSI set prices which provide for a margin in direct and indirect costs. It set up a five-year phase-in that gradually increased the amount of self-sufficiency. MSI became self-supporting in 1985. Self-sufficiency saves the state the cost of civilian wages, salaries and other costs which were paid out of the Department's budget in the past, and it allows Industries to expand its operations in order to employ more prisoners.
Photo: Jackson Historic Prison Tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor