This Week on One Detroit:

Federal Pell Grants for prison inmates return, opening new possibilities for prison education programs

In Michigan, roughly 22% of the state’s formerly incarcerated population end up back behind bars. Education can impact recidivism. A study from Emory University shows that recidivism rates drop to less than 14% after earning an associate degree, down to 5.6% after earning a bachelor’s degree, and nearly 0% with a master’s degree. More opportunities for returning citizens to earn higher education degrees became accessible in July when Federal Pell Grants became available to the incarcerated again.  

“This is a gamechanger. Across the country, we could see three-quarters of a million people go back to college who are incarcerated, and those people are very unlikely to return to prison once they’re released,” Dr. Richard Ray, a professor at Hope College involved with the Prison Education Program, said. During the 90s, harsher sentences grew the nation’s prison populations and Federal Pell Grants were eliminated for the incarcerated. Hundreds of programs vanished. Today, however, two Michigan colleges have been seeing success from their college prison initiatives, providing an education to people in prison so they’re better equipped to re-enter society.

The Calvin Prison Initiative, from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, has been running its prison education program at Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia since 2015. Hope College and Western Theological Seminary teamed up to start its Hope-Western Prison Education Program in 2019, serving the inmates at the Muskegon Correctional Facility. They hope that more Michigan colleges and universities will join their efforts to educate Michigan’s prison populations. 

One Detroit contributor Mario Bueno, who was formerly incarcerated, and senior producer Bill Kubota teamed up to explore how these college prison programs are helping the incarcerated prepare for jobs when they’re released.  

Detroit City Council member calls for moratorium on new dollar stores after excessive blight

Overgrown weeds, empty bottles and discarded bags littered property around a Detroit Family Dollar store. This type of blight isn’t unusual for a number of the dollar stores across the city, according to a report by BridgeDetroit reporter Jena Brooker, who found the city issued more than 2,400 blight tickets to Family Dollar and Dollar Tree, which are owned by the same parent company, in a three-year span dating to 2020. The company racked up more than $740,000 in unpaid fines, BridgeDetroit analysis shows. 

The city negotiated a settlement with the company for $150,000, about one-fifth of its unpaid fines, BridgeDetroit reported. A Dollar Tree spokesperson said in a statement: “We know how much Detroit shoppers rely on our stores, and we’re committed to offering a clean, safe environment for our associates and customers – both inside and outside of our stores.” 

Some city council members disagreed with the settlement and wanted to see more action taken to rectify the issues. Councilmember Angela Whitfield-Calloway wants a temporary moratorium on building new dollar stores in the city. She also wants to see more fresh produce in existing dollar stores. 

One Detroit Producer Will Glover caught up with Brooker to learn about the blight issues at dollar stores around the city, as well as what steps city officials are taking. 

Rob Edwards’ forthcoming graphic novel details a little-known story in America’s Black history

Rob Edwards, a Detroit-born screenwriter best known for Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and “Treasure Planet,” and the TV shows “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “In Living Color,” has a new graphic novel set to release in February 2024 detailing a little-known, yet highly prominent figure of America’s Black history: Robert Smalls.  

Titled “Defiant,” the graphic novel chronicles the extraordinary life of Smalls, who as a 23-year-old slave successfully commandeered a Confederate Civil War ship and surrendered it to the Union Army, before joining the Union Army and becoming a war hero himself. Smalls went on to run for Congress five times, and won, the longest-serving Black congressman during Reconstruction, among several other successes.  

“He started a printing press. He started a railroad. He’s the reason why we have Black people in the military, because they showed courage, you know, intelligence and strength. He’s the reason why we have public schools,” Edwards said during an interview with One Detroit’s Chris Jordan. It’s a story Edwards felt compelled to tell as a Black author and one that readers were hungry to get their hands on. The graphic novel has been backed by almost 2,000 supporters, bringing more than $150,000 on Kickstarter to help fund the project.  

One Detroit’s Chris Jordan caught up with Edwards on a recent visit home to Michigan, at Comics & More in Madison Heights, where they talked about “Defiant,” the support he’s received through Kickstarter, and why a comic book is a perfect, if unorthodox, way to teach kids Black history. Watch the full, extended version of this interview here.

One Detroit Weekend: December 8, 2023 

Holiday events are in full swing around metro Detroit and there’s a ton of events for families to take part in. Enjoy holiday decorations at the Boston-Edison Association Holiday Home Tour. Create your own holiday wreath at the Edison Branch of the Detroit Public Library. Tipping Point Theatre hosts “A Very Northville Christmas,” and don’t miss The Big Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester. Find out what else is coming up around town on “One Detroit Weekend” with Dave Wagner and Cecelia Sharpe of 90.9 WRCJ.  

List of Upcoming Events:  

  • Head over to Monroe Street Midway through Jan. 7 for a variety of winter fun including an arctic slide, bumper cars, art experiences, puck-putt and and more. The Midway is located across from Campus Martius in downtown Detroit. 
  • Check out the decked-out homes in Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison neighborhood during their 49th annual Holiday Home Tour on Dec. 9-10. Tours begin and end at Sacred Heart Seminary.  
  • Get crafty at the Edison Branch of the Detroit Public Library’s holiday wreath workshop on Dec. 9. Individuals of all skill levels can create and take home their own wreath. 
  • Join a jam-packed night of holiday and musical theatre classics at Detroit Public Theatre’s Holiday Cabaret, live through Dec. 17. 
  • Take a trip to the Tipping Point Theatre to see its performances of “A Very Northville Christmas,” the romantic comedy spoof that’s made for Hallmark lovers, haters and everyone in between.  
  • Celebrate the season with the Michigan Philharmonic’s Holiday Pops concerts on Dec. 7 at First United Method Church in Plymouth and Dec. 8 at the Marquis Theater in Northville. 
  • Stroll the streets of downtown Rochester to see The Big Bright Light Show taking place through Jan. 21. The display runs every evening from 5 p.m. to midnight. 
  • Don’t miss the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the community on Dec. 11 for a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations taking place at The Commons. 

Stay Connected: 

Subscribe to One Detroit’s YouTube Channel & Don’t miss One Detroit Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.

Catch the daily conversations on our website, Facebook, Twitter @DPTVOneDetroit, and Instagram @One.Detroit

View Past Episodes >

Watch One Detroit every Monday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET on Detroit Public TV on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.