LANSING, Mich. – Michigan returned 62 sex offenders to prison in the past week after they were mistakenly released because of glitch in how psychologists determined their treatment plans, authorities said.
The parolees, who were outfitted with GPS tethers, were picked up immediately after officials learned of the mistake, Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said Wednesday. Some were released again after the parole board determined it was safe to do so, though most remained incarcerated while the board considered whether they should be freed.
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration has worked to shrink the prison population due to budget deficits but says only low-risk offenders are being paroled earlier than they may otherwise have been and all have served their minimum sentences.
House Minority Leader Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Kewadin, on Wednesday called on Granholm to stop any earlier paroles "until we know the scope of the problem." He characterized the mistaken releases as "negligence."
Starting June 1, sex offenders approved for parole began answering a new questionnaire designed to determine their needed level of treatment. Two private psychologists hired by the state to assess the test scores were then supposed to put the inmates into one of three treatment categories: outpatient, inpatient or detention.
Outpatient or inpatient determinations meant the prisoners would be paroled to attend therapy while living at home or a residential center. A recommendation of detention meant their parole would be halted.
The psychologists, however, put some inmates into an unauthorized fourth category if there was insufficient or invalid data, Marlan said. Sixty-two of those prisoners were released June 22-24 before the department learned of the error last week.
"The issue has been rectified," Marlan said Wednesday.
Another Republican, Rep. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, brought the issue to the media's attention Wednesday, saying he had gotten a call from a mother who was upset her son was released from prison and then put back within days.
A newly expanded parole board is using risk assessment scales to evaluate sex offenders, while in the past the board relied on reports of how treatment had gone in prison along with details of the crime and other factors.
"They were making for the most part their decision on sex offenders off emotion, the original crime," Marlan said. "There's a stigma that goes with sex offenders. What we wanted them to use was true data."
The parole board is releasing more prisoners who have served past their minimum sentence after independent experts found Michigan inmates stay in prison longer than is the case nationally. Key Democratic and Republican lawmakers backed the parole changes in January but have not yet put new requirements into law.