Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Patricia Caruso, Michigan Department of Corrections

Mar 23, 2011

In Episode #22, Former Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections Patricia Caruso discusses how Michigan reduced its prison population and reduced recidivism through a “Justice Reinvestment” strategy, why corrections officials should care about what happens when people leave prison, Michigan’s innovative reentry initiative, lessons other states can take from the Michigan experience, and more.

Patricia Caruso Interview Highlights

Caruso on the Culture Change in How Wardens See Their Role:

“I looked at my job [as a warden] as everyone goes home safely everyday. Keep the lid on the joint.  That’s pretty important stuff when you’re a warden. But I never thought of my job as being something beyond that and being invested in whether these men got out and stayed out. I will tell you today that all wardens look at that as part of their job. So a huge culture change had to be undertaken to look at our role in this continuum of the criminal justice spectrum and figure out that we had a much larger role to play.”

Caruso on “Justice Reinvestment”:

“As we started changing our culture and as we started doing things differently, we recognized that our incarcerated population would start to decline.  And we made a decision that as that happened we would reinvest one third of the money into resources that would help support the effort of keeping that population down and continuing to go down… So reinvestment for us meant partnering with community organizations and businesses all around the state with the end result being safer communities.”

Caruso on Reducing Recidivism:

“When we started this, we were looking at one in two persons who got out of prisons were coming back. And we’re now at about one in three and that number is actually improving as time goes along, and as we identify more and better resources and are able to target more resources appropriately to individuals.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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