Alger Max turning key on solitary

The Michigan Department of Corrections is one of those state agencies that few people pay much attention to, unless, of course, something has gone wrong.

And perhaps, given the nature of work it does, that’s appropriate.

All of that said, however, we’d like to recognize some innovation at one of DOC’s maximum security prisons that’s located right here in Superiorland: Alger Maximum Security Prison near Munising.

The context here is a concern on the part of some prison officials and others that locking inmates up in administrative segregation — also known as solitary confinement — is actually exacerbating violence and mental health problems.

An interesting sidenote is Michigan has no age or time limits for putting inmates in administrative segregation. While almost half the states ban solitary confinement for juveniles, not Michigan.

Top DOC officials asked the leadership running its individual prisons to come up with solutions.

At Alger Max, staff provides incentives for good behavior, such as more recreation time, a phone call or items from the prison store for inmates in solitary confinement.

“Incentives in Segregation” has been so successful, they tell us, the prison has closed an entire wing of solitary confinement cells.

While we understand a societal desire to lock up people convicted of crimes and throw away the key, it’s important to understand the vast majority of inmates in prison today will ultimately be released tomorrow back into communities — like yours.

We see the Alger Max program, which traces its roots to common sense, as a positive step in the right direction.

Mining Journal (Marquette)