Tuesday 30 January 2018

Michigan prison closing after state's inmate population drop

The Michigan Department of Corrections will close a Muskegon prison in March because the state prison population has hit a 20-year low, the agency announced Monday.
West Shoreline Correctional Facility, which employs 174 people and houses about 1,280 prisoners with the lowest-level security rating, will close March 24, the department said.
It said the state prison population has dropped below 40,000 for first time in more than 20 years, after peaking at about 51,500 in 2007.
The closure will save the department about $10 million in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, and about $19 million in the 2019 fiscal year, spokesman Chris Gautz told the Free Press.
“We’re grateful for all the hard work of West Shoreline staff and will continue to support them as we wind down operations at the facility,” Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington said in a news release. 
“Closures are challenging, but this represents a step in the right direction as we focus on giving offenders the skills they need to be successful in the community so they do not return to prison.”
Tom Tylutki, president of the Michigan Corrections Organization, representing 87 corrections officers at the facility, said a prison closure is “a time of uncertainty and stress for officers because their employment, work location, living arrangements, child care and other critical aspects of day-to-day life are made uncertain."
He said the union will work to ensure the closure goes smoothly and will keep members "updated every step of the way."
Washington said the department will try to offer jobs to the West Shoreline employees to fill vacancies at other facilities.
"All options will be considered to minimize the impact on staff," she said.
Decisions on where the prisoners will be sent will be made in the next several weeks, "as we find the most appropriate setting for them to continue their educational and other programming needs," Gautz said.
Washington said a renewed focus on prisoner education and vocational training, combined with fewer individuals coming to prison and fewer returning to prison upon release, has led to the state’s prison population declining by more than 7% in the past three years.
She said the recidivism rate is "near historic lows" at 29.8%.
Since 2005, the department has closed and consolidated 26 facilities and camps, which has resulted in nearly $400 million in budget reductions, the department said in a news release.
The last closure was Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley, in 2016.

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