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Michigan prisoners’ parole possibly delayed for crowded programming

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LANSING, Mich. -- Sandra Zukowski of Kalamazoo says once your loved one is incarcerated, you may feel as powerless as they do. She believes her son is like many prisoners statewide who become eligible for parole but are unable to enroll in programs they need to complete to be released.

One year from now Zukowski's son, Daniel Maxson, 29, should be eligible for parole, but she says he's being told that at that time he still be on a waiting list to start a program he is required to complete before being released.

Daniel Maxon visiting his grandmother in the Petoskey area.

“If they go before the parole board and they have not completed the programming, they will not be released. But it’s a Catch 22: they’re not going to be offered the programming until their parole date passes," said Zukowski.

Zukowski calls this a civil rights issue: Michigan prisoners missing their first possible parole dates because the system is too crowded or because there's a lack of qualified staff to teach the programs prisoners need.

“When I hear that he can’t get out, that means I can’t get out either," said Zukowski.

"I can’t get out of this powerlessness to support him and help him, and that doesn’t feel good. And I know I’m not the only one.”

Maxson is serving a 19- to 90-month sentence for attempting to commit second-degree criminal sexual conduct. On parole at the time, Maxson's criminal record shows he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and of possessing child pornography.

The Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson Chris Gautz tells FOX 17 the MDOC prioritizes prisoners' program enrollment based on their earliest release dates. When there are backlogs, officials move prisoners to openings at facilities statewide. "We make every effort to ensure that prisoners have access to the programming that they need to complete before their earliest release date," said Gautz.

"We're constantly monitoring that and moving people around," he said.

“I hope that not only that my son gets the programming for his release but the hundreds of other prisoners who are waiting on hold to be released," said Zukowski.

"It seems like a civil rights issue to be holding people beyond their sentence. They’ve served their sentence; let them out."

Gautz asks families whose loved ones are facing similar situations to call the MDOC in Lansing at 517)-335-1426. He says you can also call the prison and ask to speak with the staff handling program scheduling at that facility.

According to the MDOC, it costs the state an average of $35,149 per prisoner annually. Zukowski says why keep anyone incarcerated any longer than necessary after they serve their time. It costs the prisoner socially as much as it costs taxpayers, she said.

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  • tracyd112

    This is an all time Low for Fox news to do a Story on a Child Predator Makes me sick let him stay there.He got out Once and he Committed More sexual Crimes.Maybe His Mother needs to stop babying this child Predator .Just because he is scheduled to go in front of the Parole Board does not mean he will get out especially after getting caught again after being released.The Parole Board can keep him the whole 71/2 years.I wonder how she feels about the Children he has Harmed? .

    • elizabeth

      I just posted a very similar comment, i couldn’t believe they actually made a news story with a sexual offender as the “victim.” He already violated parole once and his mother is just okay with child porn, seriously wtf?

  • elizabeth

    I see no reason for him to get out early on parole. Attempted CSC and the child porn alone should keep him locked up, let out the people drug crimes instead. I am appalled this is the story Fox chose to show. As a victim of CSC, we hope the offender stays locked up as long as possible. Not that a news story with a criminal’s mom about how he doesn’t deserve this and the news story basically agreeing. He is in prison for a reason, he deserves where he is. Shame on you Fox for backing up criminals.

  • Marie Campbell

    I appreciate that Fox News wrote this article. This is a long standing problem. Approximately 1/4 of the guys in prison are serving time for a sex offence. If you look at the “gold standard” of evidence on recidivism from the DOJ for this group of people, it is 1.5% when filtered for new convictions. Holding these guys past their ERD when they can and will get the programming on the outside doesn’t makes sense and has helped created our mass incarceration problem which every one is paying for.

  • Kathie

    Perhaps this wasn’t the best example, since this person had been out on parole once and failed. However, this is a real problem. Looking on MDOC’s website, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/corrections/Section_9133_2nd_Quarter_558788_7.pdf, I see there are 260 prisoners, who are not parole violators, and who have served the time the judge sentenced them to but have not completed required programming. Not only is this a cost to taxpayers, but these people have served their sentence without this help in changing their behavior. I think the best practice would be to do the programming when people arrive in prison. This would have the added benefit of making prisons safer.

  • Carol Smith

    What his crime was isn’t the issue people. The issue is the system not having the programs needed for ANYONE to be released when they have served their time or come up for parole hearing at their ERD. Fox could have left his crime and sentence out of the story since on a whole it affects everyone serving time and their families. This is just one family members story .Issues can’t and won’t be changed if no one speaks out and makes the problems known .Program availability is just one of many problems in the prison system.

  • Benjamin

    “Lock em up and throw away the key doesn’t seem to be working.” Once convicted, the judicial system imposes a sentence. The prisoner serves the time. The cost of programming is much lower then the cost of incarceration so lets provide the programming and release these prisoners when eligible.

  • Kathryn

    Has anyone looked into WHY there is a lack of trainers for the CSC training needed? It seems to me that everything that I’ve read about this topic appears to be centered around this issue.

    • Don

      Response to the Fox article

      There is a lot of emotion that build around this kind of crime but there are several really good reasons for Michigan to ensure programming prior to prisoner’s earliest release date.

      First, and most important, everyone from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers to the DOJ’s SMART office stipulates that the research overwelmingly proves that specialized therapy reduces the risk of recidivism substantially for so-called Sex Offenders (Sex Offender is a legal and not a medically created category and covers a very wide range of crimes).

      Second, in contradiction to the responses so far, recidivism is not a major problem with returning offenders from this class. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds comparing studies so let’s go straight to the “gold standard” of available evidence on sex offender recidivism, the US Government’s Department of Justice report.

      If you filter the recidivism results from the DOJ report for new convictions (which is how most states define recidivism) and for crimes against children (your premise), the recidivism rate for so-called “Sex Offenders” is 1.5%.

      Yup, you read correctly, the correctly weighted recidivism rate for so-called “Sex Offenders is 1.5%

      As a point of comparison, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the general national recidivism rate for released prisoners is 68%.

      In fact, this very issue was debated out in the Amicus briefs prior to the recent Packingham case in the Supreme Court and as Melissa Hamilton a Juris Doctor and Ph.D. Professor of Law at the University of Houston explained:

      “…the amicus brief on behalf of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (and other groups) provide evidence of sexual recidivism studies from more appropriate samples. This brief cites results from studies of released sex offenders in seven different states in America, showing sexual recidivism rates in the low single digits (most around three percent),42 which is relatively consistent with the DOJ Recidivism Study results.”

      Perhaps equally as important, each specialized MDOC therapy group contains 15 people at a farily low cost to the taxpayer (paying one therapist for a few hours twice a week for six months). However, each failure to create a group creates presumptive denial of parole for all 15 people at a cost of over one half a million dollars per year (about $530,000).

      At the end of the day, failure to provide therapy does not make us safer and comes at a massive cost.

      Selected Citations:

      DOJ report https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm
      General Recidivsim Rate https://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/Pages/welcome.aspx
      Hamilton Article https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=827096
      SOMAPI Report https://ojp.gov/smart/SOMAPI/index.html

  • TimeToFreeKaren (@TimeToFreeKaren)

    Thank you for doing this story FOX. And thank you for speaking up for your son. And thanks for commenting everyone. It’s tough for many to see the importance of following the rules when people break the law or do bad things. However, we do have a system that punishes people and holds them accountable and it’s worth considering that if your own loved one was incarcerated, you would want the law treating them fairly and following that rule book too. Karen Kantzler is a case in point. She has been incarcerated in Michigan for 30 years. Her original trial judge intended for her to serve 10 years. She has ALREADY taken EVERY program offered at the prison and ALREADY passes every measure for parole imaginable. She has MDOC approved home to live in, $40,000 in her prison savings account, a caretaker and church supporting her. Her judge even went to her last parole hearing – 27 years after he tried her case, testifying for her release…and they still denied her parole! It’s senseless. It’s baseless. It’s abusive. 69yr olds cost the state up to $70,000 a year to keep locked up. Chris Gautz who gave a statement in this article will not say anything about this woman. Neither will MDOC Director Heidi Washington, nor Attorney General Bill Schuette – who also objected to this poor woman’s parole. The judges say, “travesty of justice.”

  • Malissa Melillo

    The subsequent time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I imply, I know it was my choice to learn, however I actually thought youd have one thing interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you can fix should you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

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