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Corrections and Catholic Charities working to restore training for inmates seeking parole

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections and Catholic Charities are working to find a way to restore ‘substance abuse training’ for inmates. Without the training, many inmates who would be eligible for parole will remain in prison.

When the prisons were closed to visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the various Catholic Charities ended substance abuse training for the prisoners.

“These individuals (inmates), who could be in the hundreds, who months down the road otherwise would have been paroled, are still going to be in prison as they wait to finish their programing,” said Chris Gautz, Public Information Officer for the Department of Corrections.

That’s not something anticipated in the Corrections budget.

Various Catholic Charities are contracted to do the training at nine of Michigan’s 30 prisons.

Catholic Charities West Michigan provides outpatient substance abuse service in two facilities. In a statement via email, the group stated it “stopped providing services as of Monday, March 13, 2020 because of health guards we put in place, due to COVID-19, to keep both therapists and clients healthy.”

In a text message from the Michigan Catholic Conference, an official indicated at least one of the regional Catholic Charities believed that the lockdown prohibited them from entering the prison.

Corrections spokesman Gautz said the therapists from the Catholic Charities were exempt from the lockdown and could enter the prisons to conduct the substance abuse training. He characterized the situation as a “few contractors who are refusing to come in.”

The Catholic Charities are now working with the prison system to see if there’s a way for their therapists to hold live video substance abuse training with the inmates. It’s a matter of figuring out the technology that will work.

Gautz indicated people are going to potentially miss their parole if a solution is not found.

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Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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