FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
CAPPS Reacts to House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force Report
LANSING – Today Speaker Leonard, with House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force members, announced a renewed focus on fixing the state’s mental health system. The bipartisan Task Force released a report containing 42 recommendations to improve mental health services across Michigan, including veterans’ and crime survivors’ services, substance abuse treatment, problem-solving courts, and training for law enforcement.
At today’s press conference, the Task Force emphasized the recommendations in the report will improve the state’s criminal justice system. Rep. Kesto said that we need to fix our corrections system to ensure people receive the necessary services to be successful upon release. He said the recommendations in the report are “smart on crime and soft on taxpayers.”
“The over-incarceration of people with mental illness is an important issue, and we are pleased that the Speaker and the C.A.R.E.S. Task Force are advancing a policy agenda on this issue,” said John Cooper, CAPPS policy director. “As the Legislature considers legislative action to implement the Task Force’s recommendations, we encourage them to prioritize further strategies that reduce the number of people with mental illness currently incarcerated in the state’s jails and prisons. Incarceration is not a solution to mental illness – in fact, incarceration can further weaken a person’s health and mental stability.”
“We are pleased to see a focus on services that help crime survivors heal and create safe communities. We look forward to working with the Legislature to implement additional policy recommendations that will build a safe and just Michigan for all people,” continued Cooper.
Michigan currently incarcerates nearly 40,000 people, and it is estimated that 23 percent of the prison population suffers from a serious mental illness. There are better strategies available to effectively serve people with mental illness in our communities, and divert them from entering the criminal justice system.
The report contains key recommendations to address the over-incarceration of people with mental illness, including:
- Supporting and expanding Michigan’s problem-solving courts,
- Expanding diversion and deferral programs for veterans and individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues,
- Asking Congress to allow Medicaid coverage during incarceration,
- Requiring the use of a mental health screening in all jails at intake,
- Expanding custody options for prisoners with severe mental illness and increase options of care for parolees who suffer from mental illness,
- Increasing meaningful rehabilitation efforts in prison,
- Increasing continuity from incarceration to the community,
- Eliminating barriers to work.
The report also outlines strategies to improve services for crime victims that often are unable to access meaningful services after a critical incident. CAPPS is partnering with Michigan coalitions and leaders from across the political spectrum, including crime survivor organizations, to ensure a future where everyone is safe in their own communities.
We commend the House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force for outlining a bipartisan pathway for meaningful reform. CAPPS looks forward to partnering to implement legislation that promotes community safety and eliminates wasteful corrections spending.
The Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, a non-profit public policy organization, is concerned about Michigan’s excessive use of punitive strategies rather than preventive ones to deal with crime and its impact on our quality of life. Because policy choices, not crime rates, determine corrections spending, CAPPS advocates re-examining those policies and shifting our resources to services that prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders and address the needs of all our citizens in a cost-effective manner.
To achieve these goals, CAPPS develops data-driven proposals for reducing the prison population while ensuring public safety. It informs policymakers, advocacy groups, affected communities and the general public about these issues through numerous means, including a website, a newsletter, research reports, legislative testimony and speaking appearances.