Defender Guide for Attorneys: Policies and Procedures of the MDOC

Defender Guide for Attorneys: Policies and Procedures of the MDOC


This manual is intended to aid counsel in navigating the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) on behalf of their clients who are incarcerated. The principal author of this Guide is Jessica Zimbelman, an Assistant Defender with SADO since 2012. Prior to joining SADO, Jessica worked for the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman, monitoring the Michigan Department of Corrections on behalf of the State Legislature. With Ms. Zimbelman’s unique insight, the Guide addresses common issues that arise within the MDOC, with emphasis on the following six areas:

  • Part One: Intake and Programming: extensively details how prisoners are placed in facilities, how they are classified for programs, and the current difficulties prisoners have in obtaining MDOC programming.

  • Part Two: Life Inside: eight separate sections address the common difficulties prisoners face inside the prison system, including staff harassment, threats to prisoners/safety, misconducts, the grievance procedure, gangs, indigent prisoners, and prisoner funds.

  • Part Three: Mental Health and Physical Health: with information about the mental health programs the MDOC has available, as well as policies on specific, common health care concerns.

  • Part Four: Visiting and Communication: covers not only how to properly prepare for a visit to a facility, for both family members and attorneys, but also the plethora of ways to communicate with prisoners, including writing, emailing, sending money and property, and calling prisoners.

  • Part Five: Parole: explains the parole and parole violation processes, and includes tips to help prepare clients for parole board interviews.

  • Part Six: Other Topics: includes a variety of information about specific MDOC programs, such as boot camp (SAI) and housing prisoners in county jails.

In nearly every section, there are tips for “Advising your Client” and a tremendous amount of information throughout this manual. The Guide itself is an 8.5 x 11, 104 page, soft-bound volume.

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