Raymond spent a lot of time working with, then not working with, his case management team from Community Mental Health. Over the years he had seen a social worker, psychiatrist, and case manager, and been involved in individual, group and medication therapies. He saw more social workers at the shelter he frequented, at the substance abuse treatment center he was occasionally ordered to attend, and in the juvenile facilities, jails and prisons where he spent most of his life. Many of the professionals he worked with in the community did not have a broad understanding of the justice systems that provided the bulk of Raymond’s “care”, or how this system-involvement continued to threaten his stability.
Today, over 44,000 Michigan citizens are incarcerated in prisons operated by the Michigan Department of Corrections, and hundreds of thousands are serving probation or parole sentences in the community. Between 1980 and 2010, Michigan’s prison population grew at 29 times the rate of the state’s total population.
There is no greater area of intersectionality than the criminal justice system. The men and women who serve time in our county’s prisons are disproportionally impoverished, and disproportionally people of color. The majority of justice-involved youth and adults have medical and/or behavioral health issues. LGBTQ youth make up 20% of the overall youth in detention—almost three times the estimated percentage of LGBTQ youth in the US. And women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the country. The rate of incarceration for women has been growing nearly twice as fast as that of men since 1985. Finally, the incarceration of a parent can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health, social behavior and educational prospects.
When we began the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative (MPRI) in Washtenaw County, I was amazed to see how many professionals from “other” fields jumped on board. They had been seeing clients impacted by youth and/or adult justice systems for years, and wanted help understanding how to serve those clients more effectively. MPRI also provided opportunities to work together more collaboratively, resulting in better outcomes overall.
The Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency is a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Lansing, MI. Our mission is to improve the effectiveness of policies and systems aimed at the prevention and reduction of crime and delinquency. Since 1956, MCCD has used research, community organizing, training, and technical assistance to improve outcomes for people in conflict with the law, ensure that communities have a voice in justice-related policy discussions, and encourage leaders to use resources effectively.
MCCD was the coordinating agency for training professionals involved in prisoner reentry. Ever since the funding for this training was eliminated back in 2010, there have been no opportunities for social workers to learn about the intersectionality of working with justice-involved clients. MCCD is starting a training division and we are very interested in hearing from professionals like you about your specific training needs and interests. We have developed a very brief survey of possible training topics and would appreciate your feedback.
We look forward to helping revitalize common understandings among practitioners working with justice-involved clients in their individual fields of expertise.
For additional information about our work, please go to www.miccd.org.