DIA Seeks Millage Renewal

Throughout the Metro-Detroit region there are multiple millages being levied to support regional entities, most of which were born out of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the economic downturn. When some of these millages were originally levied, the initial intentions expressed to the public were that they were for only a specific amount of time, such as with the Detroit Institute of Authority (DIA). However, the Detroit Zoo for example passed a 0.1 millage in 2008, and then came back to voters in 2016, two years before the 10 year millage was set to expire, and asked for a renewal. The 0.1 millage renewal passed, and this public support for the Detroit Zoo continues to be levied; the cost of the Zoo millage for a home valued at $100,000 ($50,000 taxable value), is $5. We have also seen the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) continuously seek millage renewals and increases, the most recent being a 1 mill renewal for four years that was approved by voters in 2018.

Now, as the end of 2019 nears, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) recently announced it is up against the clock to put millage renewal language on the March 2020 ballot. The 10-year millage was originally approved by voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties in 2012, and it was stated at that time that it was a one time request, allowing the museum time to build up its endowment for long-term financial support of operations, according to news articles of 2012 and present. Now seven years into the one-time millage, DIA officials have announced a 10-year renewal is necessary to continue offering the services the public has come to expect. In order to do this the three Art Authorities in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties (which were born out of articles of incorporation crafted and approved by the corresponding Board of Commissioners) must approve the ballot language. Just last week the Wayne County Art Authority approved putting the 0.2 mill renewal on the ballot, Oakland County is expected to debate the potential millage renewal later this month and the Macomb Art Authority will do so on Dec. 3.

As discussions again begin to ramp up over whether another regional millage renewal is necessary, it is important to consider what benefits the current tax dollars levied for the DIA may have created the region. In addition to free general admission for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne residents additional benefits can be covered under three main areas: investment in schools (free field trips with bussing, teacher professional development, and curriculum development), investment in the senior population (free group visits for older adults on Thursdays with free transportation and special programs), and investment in community partnerships (Inside/Out program, partnerships with area non-profits).

The first chart below shows the amount of money invested into the schools in the region by county and by year. In total, between 2013 and 2018 392,231 students in the tri-county region have had access to the school programs now offered by the DIA, with that investment totaling about $4.3 million. Of the three counties the most amount of money has been invested into the Wayne County schools, with that total being about $2.2 million. Wayne County has the highest population of the three counties.  It should also be noted though that investment into these various programs in the counties requires participation from the residents.

When looking at the amount invested in the senior programs since 2013 that total is about $1.7 million with the total number of seniors being reached by these special programs being 32,422. The largest investment with the senior programs since the millage has been in Oakland County with a total of  $725,362 being invested into the senior population.

Finally, the area where the most investment has been made is in the community partnerships area. Between 2013 and 2018 about $5.3 million was invested. The largest investment was in Oakland County at about $2 million. In Wayne County $1.9 million was invested, and in Macomb County about $1.3 million was invested.

It appears a new trend is emerging where millages will be needed to support regional entities and interests (the Zoo, the DIA, transit) along with day-to-day services in some cities and counties. For example, in Detroit there are currently discussions about a March ballot proposal to levy additional funds to move blight removal in the city along at a much faster pace. In Macomb County residents will asked to decide if they want to pay additional taxes in order to build a new jail. So it may be even more important for taxpayers to understand what additional taxes are appearing on their tax bill and what their priorities are. In the coming weeks we will look at the additional taxes residents pay in certain communities throughout the region to shed further light on what tax bills are now looking like.

Detroit Vacancies Decline Over Long-Term, Slow Uptick Recently in Numbers

New information on vacancies in Detroit provides a mixed picture. There were 1,490 fewer vacant Detroit properties of all kinds between September 2018 and September 2019, according to the U.S. Postal Service. However, between June 2019 and September 2019 the number of residential vacancies increased by 61 (discussed below). Overall in the month of September of 2019 there were 82,738 vacant addresses.

Although there was a decrease in the number of vacant addresses, the percentage of vacant addresses in Detroit has remained between 21 and 22 percent since June of 2011. Vacancy rates reached 20 percent in December of 2010. The peak vacancy rate in Detroit, according to U.S. Postal Service data, was in March of 2015 when it was 22.8 percent; at that time it was equivalent to 88,017 vacant addresses.

Looking backward, (we have USPS data back through 2005) the lowest vacancy rate in Detroit was in December of 2005. At that point, the rate was 10.03 percent, and that was equivalent to 38,981 vacant properties. So, overall we witnessed more than a doubling of vacancies with a gradual decline to 82,738 from a peak of 88,017.

When examining only residential vacancy rates that rate was 21.34 percent in September of 2019, which was equivalent to 74,818 vacant residential addresses. The residential vacancy rate between September of 2019 and 2018 decreased by less than 1 percent, and the total number decreased by 2,239 residential addresses. The five-year difference was a decrease of 7,230 residential vacancies. The highest residential vacancy rate was 23.5 percent in March of 2015; the lowest residential vacancy rate was in February of 2008 at 15.8 percent. Following the peak residential vacancy rate in 2015, those numbers have been on the decline.

In addition to these changes, in September of 2019 there was not a change in the number of “no stat” addresses–properties denoted by mail carriers as being either “vacant” or “no-stat.” In September of 2019 the percent of no-stat properties was 6.2 percent.  These no-stat properties are ones that carriers on urban routes mark as vacant once no resident has collected mail for 90 days. Addresses in rural areas that appear to be vacant for 90 days are labeled no-stat, as are addresses for properties that are still under construction. So, urban addresses labeled are those a carrier deems as unlikely to be occupied again any time soon. That is, both areas where property is changing to other uses and areas of severe decline may have no-stat addresses.

The maps below demonstrate both the overall Detroit address vacancy rates (including residential and business vacancy rates) by Census Tract for September 2019 (first map) and the change in vacancy rates between September 2019 and September 2018 (second map). In total, there were about 65 Census Tracts in Detroit with total vacancy rates above 35 percent. The Census Tract with the highest vacancy rate in September of 2019 was located north of I-94, between there and I-96, with a rate of 55.8 percent. There were two large clusters of Census Tracts with vacancy rates above 35 percent, one cluster was located along I-96 south and west of the Davison Freeway, and the other was located on the eastside of the city along Gratiot Avenue.

While most of the Census Tracts in the City experienced a decrease in the number of vacancies from September 2018 to September 2019, there were about 40 tracts scattered all across the city that had an increase. The Census Tract with the highest increase was located on the City’s far west side and there was an increase of 7.2 percent. The tract with the largest vacancy rate decrease was located in Southwest Detroit and there was a decrease of 11.1 percent.

In addition to the U.S. Postal Service tracking vacancy data so does the U.S. Census Bureau. The chart below shows the differences that each agency reports in vacancy rates. The Census Bureau only tracks vacant houses while the U.S. Postal Service tracks residential properties, businesses and total vacancy rates. In the chart below only residential rates are examined. As the data shows, the Census regularly has higher residential vacancy rates as compared to the U.S. Postal Service. The most recent data for the Census data (2017) shows that the City’s residential vacancy rate was 29.2 percent and that was in 2017. The Postal Service’s equivalent rate was 22.4 percent at that time. The Census data is based on a sample of about 72,000 housing units. The U.S. Postal Service data is collected by postal service workers, if a residence is deemed occupied it means it requires mail service.  It is deemed vacant if it does not require mail service. One potential reason for the difference in vacancy rates is the fact that the Census data is based on samples while the U.S. Postal Service relies on postal carrier’s actual observations of the properties. 

Problem Solving Courts Aim to Address Substance Use and Mental Health Illnesses

In Michigan there are specific courts known as “Problem Solving Courts” that are designed to address an offender’s problem. These courts often serve as an alternative to an individual serving time in jail or prison and, typically, focus on offenders with substance use and/or mental health illnesses. The different types of Problem Solving Courts are adult and juvenile drug courts, adult and juvenile mental health courts and veteran courts. These court programs are offered at the circuit court level and the district court level. In this post we will show what Problem Solving Courts exist in each county and where.

These Problem Solving Courts are additional dockets added on to a judges’ normal caseload, and running them at the district and circuit court levels does not cost locals more, beyond the need for secure internet, according to the State Court Administrator’s Office. It is through this office that additional support and training is offered. In addition to these programs providing resources for individuals to regain sobriety and a more stable life, these courts are also viewed as a cost saving measure to communities because they keep individuals out of jail. 

In total, in 2018, there were 128 drug/sobriety treatment courts in Michigan, and about 3,000 people were discharged from one of these programs. These courts do not all follow the same model, as some only accept offenders with driving under the influence charges, and others target offenders with drug related felonies. They all, though, adhere to specific guidelines to help offenders attain long-term sobriety.

Of that 128 drug/sobriety courts in the state, 31 of them were located in Southeastern Michigan, seven at the circuit court level and 24 at the district court level. Looking further into these drug courts, there are five just focused on offenders with driving under the influence charges, and two that are solely focused on juveniles. When looking at the location of the courts, Wayne County had the most drug treatment courts in 2018 at 11 followed by Oakland County with 10.  St. Clair and Monroe counties did not have any drug treatment courts.

According to the state, 65 percent of the participants throughout Michigan successfully graduated from a drug/sobriety court and 29 percent were unsuccessfully discharged due to non-compliance, absconding or a new offense.

Mental Health Courts are another type of Problem Solving Court offered in Michigan, and in 2018 there were 33 total mental health courts. In Southeastern Michigan there were 11 different mental health courts, one of which was for juveniles in Wayne County. There were four total mental health courts in Wayne County in 2018, two in Macomb County, and one each in the five other counties in the region.

According to the state, of the 1,414 participants in the mental court program 57 percent successfully completed the program. Additional data shows that unemployment for adult participants in circuit court mental health programs decreased by more than 50 percent, and unemployment decreased by more than 66 percent for participants at the district court level. Information from the state court system also showed that graduates were half as likely to commit another crime within three years of being admitted into a mental health court program.

Veteran Treatment Courts are another type of Problem Solving Court in Michigan, and in 2018 there were 25 across the state with 596 active participants. Of the active veterans involved in the program, 71 percent successfully completed their programs in 2018.  In Southeastern Michigan there were 14 Veteran Treatment Courts with five located in Wayne County, four in Oakland County, two in Macomb County and one each in Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw counties.

Real Estate Investments Strong in Southeastern Michigan

In September of 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 3.5, a small decrease from the August unemployment rate of 4.2, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of  Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for September of 2018 was the same as it was this year in September, 3.5.

In September of 2019 Detroit’s unemployment rate was 8.5 percent.  That Detroit unemployment rate was 0.8 points lower in September of 2019 from the previous month. Also, the September 2019 unemployment rate for Detroit was 0.1 point higher from the previous year. In August of 2018 it was 8.4 percent.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for September of 2018 and 2019. In September of 2019 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.9. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.

Monroe County was the only one to have a lower unemployment rate in September of 2019 compared to September of 2018. In 2018 Monroe County had an unemployment rate of 3.7 and in 2019 in decreased to 3.2.  For all the other counties in the region an unemployment rate increase between September of 2018 and 2019 was not above 0.2.

Real estate availability is another aspect of an area’s financial health. Below is information from the quarterly reports of Cushman and Wakefield, a global real estate firm, which produces information related to Metro-Detroit. According to the company, investments in Metro-Detroit have been strong in 2019. One instance cited for this is the investment Amazon is making in Pontiac at the old Silverdome site (1,500 jobs are expected to come with the purchasing and transition of the site). In the third quarter of 2019 Pontiac had a commercial vacancy rate of 13 percent, as shown in the second chart below. Southfield, the Grosse Pointes and Troy all had higher vacancy rates at 18.1 percent, 17.8 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. Ann Arbor had the lowest vacancy rate at 7.8 percent, followed by Macomb County at 8.7 percent. As one might expect Ann Arbor, with one of the lowest vacancy rates in the third quarter of 2019 also  one of the highest costs per square feet in the region at $23.25. The Birmingham/Bloomfield area was one of the only other areas in the region with a higher cost per square foot for commercial property at $25.41, while in the Grosse Pointes the average commercial property was priced at $25.02 per square foot. Macomb County had the lowest cost at per square foot at $16.97.


Production of Solid Waste Rises in Michigan

The landfills in Michigan not only hold solid waste produced from Michigan residents, but also from other states and Canada. The first chart below shows how much solid waste has been disposed of in Michigan landfills between 2008 and 2019, total. Between 2009 and 2012 the amount of waste being disposed decreased from about 49 million cubic yards in 2009 to about 44 million cubic yards in 2012. From 2013 to 2018 though the amount of waste being disposed continuously increased. In 2013 there was about 44.5 million yards of cubic waste disposed of into Michigan landfills and by 2018 that number was about 52.5 million cubic yards.

When examining the three different sources that dispose of solid waste into Michigan landfills the data shows that waste from Canada had the largest decrease between 2009 and 2012, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In 2009 9 million cubic yards were disposed of into Michigan landfills and 2012 that number was 6.5 cubic yards.  Between 2013 and 2018 though those numbers increased from about 7.5 million cubic yards to 9.5 cubic yards. For the amount of solid waste disposed of in Michigan from instate sources that number rose from about 35 million cubic yards in 2009 to about 40 million cubic yards. For solid waste disposal from other states that amount disposed of never increased above 2.9 million cubic yards between 2009 and 2018.

Overall, the amount of waste generated in Michigan continues to increase while import rates are decreasing, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The chart below shows the total waste disposed in Michigan landfills from each county in Southeastern Michigan. This chart does not necessarily reflect how much waste is disposed in each county, but rather how much waste comes from each county. Wayne County had the highest amount of waste disposal at more than 11 million cubic yards in 2018; this amount was more than twice the amount of any other county in the region. Oakland County had the second highest amount of waste disposed in 2018 at about 4.3 million cubic yards. Livingston County had the lowest amount of waste disposed at about 380,000 cubic yards.

Below is a list of the landfills in Southeastern Michigan and the amount and type of waste disposed in them in 2018. Municipal and Commercial Waste (MCW) was the most common type of waste disposed of in Southeastern Michigan landfills, followed by Industrial Waste (IW).

In Southeastern Michigan there are 13 different landfills, two of which only accept Industrial Waste. The two landfills that only accept Industrial Waste are Detroit Edison Ash Disposal in St. Clair County and the DTE Monroe Power Plant in Monroe County.

Pine Tree Acres, which is a landfill operated by Waste Management in Lenox Township (Macomb County) had the largest amount of waste disposed there in 2018 at nearly 5.1 million cubic yards. Carleton Farms Landfill in Sumpter Township (Wayne County) had the second largest amount of waste disposed there at about 4 million cubic yards.

The City of Livonia accepted the least amount of waste in 2018. According to the Department of Environmental Quality the City of Livonia landfill received 2,700 cubic yards of Municipal and Commercial Waste and 1.8 yards of Industrial Waste.

Overall this post was intended to highlight where waste in Michigan, and the region comes from, what regional counties are producing the most amount of solid waste and how the production of waste in the state continues to rise. Not only does this post shed light on the production of solid waste but it should also be a conversation starter for the need of increased recycling rates. According to the Environmental Protection Agency the recycling rate in Michigan is 15 percent; the national average is 35 percent. While bottle returns in Michigan are at about a 90 percent redemption rate, according to a 2018 Bridge Magazine article, other recyclable items are not returned at nearly such a high rate. There needs to be a mindset change in the State of Michigan, and digging deeper into the data could help facilitate successful public information campaigns.

Unfortunately, data on recycling is not nearly as detailed as the information the state produces on solid waste. For example, information on what communities offer curbside recycling is not readily available, and the last measurement report on recycling in the state was published in 2016, with data from 2014.

There needs to be more information on recycling in Michigan, and the amount of solid waste disposed of in Michigan’s landfills needs to be reduced. Although waste from other states and countries is imported to Michigan landfills, an action that should also be halted, it is the rate at which solid waste in Michigan is being produced and disposed of that is increasing the greatest problem. We need to see a substantial reduction in solid waste disposal, and a parallel increase increase in recycling.  

Breast Cancer in Southeastern Michigan

The month of October is Breast Awareness Month and in 2019, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it is estimated that there will be 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer, nationally. In addition, the foundation estimates that there will about 42,000 deaths from breast cancer in 2019. Breast cancer affects both men and women, but occurs at a much higher rate in women. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, there is an estimated 129.8 new cases of invasive breast per 100,000 women each year and in men that number is 1.2 cases per 100,000 men. Additionally, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more diagnoses of breast cancer in 2019 (9,310) than lung, colon, prostate, melanoma or bladder cancer. However, the American Cancer Society also estimates that lung, colon and pancreatic cancer have a higher mortality rate than female breast cancer.

The data shown in the maps below has been provided by the Michigan Department of Community Health and Services and was last updated in 2017. Additionally, the data focuses on women.  According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, breast cancer is the most common newly diagnosed cancer among women in Michigan. In 2017 there were about 8,160 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in Michigan.

In 2017 St. Clair County had the highest rate of women with invasive breast cancer at 27.3 per 100,000 females, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health and Services. Wayne County had the second highest rate at 22 per 100,000 females and Oakland County had the lowest rate at 17.8 at 100,000 females. At the state level the rate for women with breast cancer was 19.2 in 2017. The only county below this rate in Southeastern Michigan was Oakland County.

Although not all women with breast cancer die from the disease, there are hundreds of deaths from the disease a year. In 2017 Wayne County had the highest number of deaths at 247 followed by Oakland County at 153 and Macomb County at 126. Regionally, Livingston County had the lowest number of deaths associated with invasive breast cancer at 18. These numbers are, generally, consistent with populations across these counties. In 2017 there was a total of 1,308 deaths associated with breast cancer across Michigan.

While breast cancer rates at the county level in Southeastern Michigan are are lower than those at the national level (129.8 cases per 100,000 women), it still causes significant number of deaths per year. Since the early 2000s the number of breast cancer deaths has declined, in large part due to increased mammogram screening. This month multiple health care organizations, such as Henry Ford, Beaumont and McLaren, are offering free mammograms to raise awareness and increase the chances of early detection. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, so as individuals grow older-particularly women- annual and regular testing becomes more and more important.

Economic Indicators: Percentage of Salaried, Wage Workers who are Union Members Decreases

In August of 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 4.2, a small decrease from the July unemployment rate of 4.3, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of  Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for August of 2018 was 0.3 points lower than what it was in August of 2019 (4.2).

The Detroit rate was 1.8 points lower in August of 2019 from the previous month. Also, the August 2019 unemployment rate for Detroit was 0.6 points lower from the previous year. In August of 2019 Detroit’s unemployment rate was 9.3 percent and in August of 2018 it was 9.9 percent.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for August of 2018 and 2019. In August of 2019 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 5.4. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.3.

Wayne and Monroe counties were the only two to have lower unemployment rates in August of 2019 compared to August of 2018; Monroe County experienced a 0.9 point decrease and Wayne County experienced a 0.4 point decrease. Among the remainder, none of the other five counties in the region experienced an unemployment increase of more than 0.2 between August of 2018 and August of 2019.

The above chart shows the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $129,220 in July 2019; this was $300 higher than the average family dwelling price in June. The July 2019 price was an increase of $4,980 from July of 2018 and an increase of $12,140 from July of 2017, an increase of $20,050 from July of 2016 and increase of  $25,880 from July of 2015 and, finally, an increase of 
$31,090 from July of 2014.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the percent of the workforce in Michigan that is a member of a union has gradually decreased since 2000. In 2000, 20.3 percent of employed wage and salary workers were represented by a union and in 2018 that dropped to 14.5 percent. The highest percent of union membership of the work force in that time frame was 21.9 percent. 

In the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses report released by American Express, Detroit ranked as the top metropolitan area that increased a combination of its growth rates for the number of women-owned firms, employed women and their revenue. According to Crain’s Detroit, the number of women-owned businesses in the Metro-Detroit area grew from 157,090 in 2012 to 358,507 in 2019. Additionally, the number of women-owned businesses in the State of Michigan grew 29 percent between 2012 and 2019, with employment at those companies growing 4 percent and revenue growing by 20 percent.

Long-term Substitutes More Concentrated in Lower Income Areas

In Michigan there is a teacher shortage and often times long-term substitute teachers are seen as at least a temporary fix to the problem. The individuals who fill these positions are not required to have an education background and can end up leading a classroom for a full year, or more. According to data from the Michigan Department of Education, the number of long-term substitutes in Michigan schools has increased from 213 during the 2012-13 academic year to 2,538 for the 2018-19 year. For this post we explore the percentage of teachers that were long-term substitutes in the Southeastern Michigan school districts for the 2018-19 academic year; charter schools are not included.

At first glance, the map shows that majority of the districts in the seven county region had less than 2.5 percent of the teacher population at each district serving as long-term substitute teachers. In Washtenaw, St. Clair and Monroe counties not one of the public school districts had more than 2.5 percent of the teacher population made up of long-term substitutes. The county with the highest number of public school districts with higher percentages of long-term substitute teachers was Wayne County. In Wayne County, and regionally, South Redford School District had the highest percentage of long-term substitutes at 13.3 percent. Other districts in Wayne County with higher percentages of long-term substitute teachers were the River Rouge School District, Ecorse Public Schools and the Dearborn Heights School District. In Oakland County, the Berkley School District had 13.2 percent of its teacher population made up of long-term substitutes. According to a recent article by Bridge Magazine, school districts in areas with lower household incomes are more likely to have a higher percentage of long-term substitutes. This is also especially true for charter schools, which were not examined in this post but will be at a later time. Bridge Magazine’s analysis states that charter school students are four times more likely to have a long-term substitute as a teacher than a student in a traditional public school. Additionally, according to the article, low academic performing school districts are more than three times as likely to have long-term substitutes instead of certified teachers.

While this post highlights how in some areas of the Southeastern Michigan, and in the state, there is a shortage of certified teachers, additional information reveals that there are overall personnel shortages in school districts. From teachers to speech pathologists to adult education teachers, the State of Michigan has posted critical shortage openings for retirees to re-apply to so the positions can be filled. The list can be found here. That information, coupled with the long-term substitute data, further shows that education in Michigan is in need of assistance. With a critical need for teachers, at least in part due to stagnant and/or declining salaries, and overall lack of funding for education changes need to happen to ensure the students of Michigan are receiving the education they need and deserve.

Timeline Shows Area Counties Follow Different Patterns for Felony Sentencing

Throughout this series on data for felony offenders sentenced in Southeastern Michigan we’ve focused on the percentage of offenders sentenced to prison, jail, a combination of jail and probation, or probation. This post allows us to further examine what trends there may be in sentencing in each of the seven counties. This data was provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections and focuses on years 2011 and 2017; the data prior to 2011 was reported differently and therefor not included.

The first chart below shows how Macomb County has consistently had the lowest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison since 2011, and that percentage has been decreasing in recent years. Similar to Macomb County, most of the other counties in the region have recently experienced a decrease in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison. Washtenaw County experienced the largest decrease in felony offenders sentenced to prison between 2011 and 2017; that percentage decreased from 23.7 percent to 18 percent.  In that same time frame Oakland and St. Clair counties both experienced increases in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison. For Oakland County the percentage increased from 19 percent to 20.1 percent and for St. Clair County the percentage increased from 15.4 percent to 18.7 percent.

The chart below shows the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to jail in Southeastern Michigan between 2011 and 2017. Consistently in this time frame, St. Clair County sentenced the highest percentage of offenders to jail and Wayne County sentenced the lowest percentage of offenders. In St. Clair County there has been a slow increase in the percentage of offenders sentenced to jail, from 32.7 percent in 2011 to 39.7 percent in 2017. There has also been an increase in the percentage of offenders sentenced to jail in Livingston County between 2011 and 2017; there was an increase from 20.8 percent to 24.3 percent. None of the counties have seen an overall decrease in the percentage off felony offenders sentenced to jail since 2011, with the exception of Monroe County. In 2011 14.4 percent of felony offenders were sentenced to jail in Monroe County and in 2017 that number decreased to 13.7 percent.

The chart below shows that Monroe County has consistently had the highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to a jail/probation combination since 2011. The chart also shows that Washtenaw and Oakland counties have been increasing the percentage of felony offenders they’ve sentenced to a jail/probation combination. In 2011, 23.6 percent of felony offenders in Washtenaw County were sentenced to the jail/probation combination and by 2017 that number increased to 31.3 percent. For Oakland County, 39.5 percent of the felony offender population was sentenced to a jail/probation combination and by 2017 that number increased to 47.8 percent.

Wayne County consistently sentenced the lowest percentage of offenders to the jail/probation combination between 2011 and 2017.

The probation chart below shows several patterns, the first being that Wayne County has consistently sentenced the highest percentage of felony offenders to probation since 2011. Not only has Wayne County consistently sentenced the highest percentage of offenders to probation, but this sentencing form also has the largest difference between the county with the highest sentencing percentage (Wayne) and the lowest (Monroe County).

Oakland County experienced the largest decrease in the percentage of offenders sentenced to probation between 2011 and 2017. In 2011, 16.3 percent of felony offenders were sentenced probation and by 2017 that number decreased to 4.5 percent. Livingston County also experienced a decrease, from 16.3 percent to 6.4 percent. Macomb, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties also experienced minor decreases in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to probation.

Overall, this post highlights •A decrease in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to probation; •A general decrease in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison; •General increases in the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to jail and a jail/probation combination.

Additionally, these charts highlight the trends counties tend to adhere to in sentencing. This is helpful in understanding what counties’ criminal justice priorities are and where the may money to fund the criminal justice system in each county is flowing.

Finally, this post highlights that counties follow strikingly different strategies relative to corrections, demonstrating how the criminal justice system in this state is fragmented.

The Difference in Sentencing for Convicted Felons

As this series over the last few weeks has highlighted, there are several different approaches to sentencing a felon, some of which are more common than others. For example, sentencing a felon to community service or restitution is highly uncommon, whether the individual has been convicted of a non-assaultive, assaultive or drug related felony. Prison time, jail time, a combination of jail and probation and then just probation are other sentencing options. For certain offenses, such as murder, prison time is required, and for other offenses, along with what the inmate’s criminal record is, other sentencing options may be viable.  

When an individual is sentenced to prison it means that they have been sentenced to spend at least a year in a correctional facility, whether it be controlled by the state or the federal government. Michigan has indeterminate sentencing, which means that an offender is sentenced with a minimum and maximum term of years to spend in prison. According to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, in 2015 it cost between $32,000 and $38,000 a year to house an inmate, which includes probation/parole supervision and nonoperational overhead. Currently, Michigan’s prison population is at a 20-year low but expenses to house inmates and operate a jail continue to rise, in part due to rising health care costs and the aging prison population.

Those sentenced to jail time, or who spend time in jail, are either awaiting trial or sentencing or have been sentenced to serve a small amount of time. Jails in Michigan are under the jurisdiction of the county, not the state or the federal government. This means that the cost to house an inmate comes from the County budget. In Michigan there is also pay-to-stay policies in some county jails. According to a 2018 news story, jail inmates are charged between $20 and $60 a day at some county jails throughout Michigan. County jails too are facing rising costs with aging infrastructure being a large contributing factor. New jails are also being built in Michigan, some of which are reducing the number of beds though as a new approach to the criminal justice system begins to take hold.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, probation has been the primary form of supervision for felons in Michigan more than 100 years. The department states one of the reasons this is such a common form of sentencing is because it achieves public protection by assisting the offender in becoming a productive member of society. In order for such success to be achieved, the offender must be willing to participate and programs must be available. The typical felony probation is at least 18 months in length. According to the United States Courts, the annual cost of detaining a prisoner is much more significant than the cost of placing them on supervision. In Wayne County, officials stated that incarceration rates at the county jail facilities have decreased in recent years due to more offenders being placed on tether monitoring systems, which is part of a probation sentence. This approach costs less per offender than housing them in jail, according to Wayne County officials, but specific costs were not identified.

Recently, there has been a push to reevaluate the criminal justice system. In Michigan, for example a Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration was created to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s criminal justice system. According to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the jail population in Michigan has almost tripled in the last 30 years, despite crime rates being at a 20-year low. According to the Prison Policy Initiative there was about 225 prisoners incarcerated per 100,000 in 1985 and that increased to about 600 prisoners per 100,000 people in 2015. Discussions to decrease incarceration rates include increasing pre-trial services and better determining what treatment and programs may suit an individual better than jail time. If this approach does occur, future trends would reflect an increase in the probation and the “other” category and a decrease in incarceration rates. 

Next week we will take a deeper look as to how the percentage of felony offenders sentenced to either prison, jail, probation or other community service and treatment based alternatives has changed over the last decade.