After a steady decline in prisoners in Michigan’s prison systems since 2007, the number has increased by about 1,000 this year. Russ Marlan, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections (DOC), attributes nearly all of the increase to parole violators. The prison population as of May 4, 2012 was 43,801; the population in March 2007 was 51,554 prisoners.
As for how the state will be affected by this increase with the recent DOC budget cut, Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph), chair of the Senate Appropriations DOC Subcommittee, says that since the State did not see much savings from a decrease in prisoner population over the last five years, the budget has room to absorb the 1,000 extra prisoners. The DOC budget has stayed at about $2 billion for several years.
As far as specific changes to the DOC budget, please note: This year’s budget does not include privatizing any of Michigan’s prisons, an idea that has been frequently visited this legislative session. Unions, House Republicans, and the Governor all had issues with closing the Ionia prisons and taking a privatization route instead. The budget does stipulate, however, cutting costs at several DOC run facilities, as well as the closure of Mound prison and the elimination of 115 vacant field operations positions.
The DOC will cut $25 million out of its budget by cutting out overtime costs by using retirees on a part-time basis. The Department will also reclassify positions: assistant resident supervisors will become prison counselors, field service agents will become parole supervision assistants, and resident unit officers will become corrections officers.
Appropriations Changes from 2011-2012
Prison and Re-Entry Center Restructuring Conference increases funding by $10.8 million to implement a planned MDOC restructuring of current prison and re-entry facilities. Ryan Correctional Facility would be re-purposed as the Detroit Reentry Center to house parolees and parole violators, while a similar Tuscola County re-entry facility will be closed. In addition, to maintain prison bed space, the Muskegon Correctional Facility will be reopened. Overall, the changes add 290 regular prison beds and 884 re-entry beds to the system. Funding impacts are summarized below:
|Convert Ryan to re-entry center||(117.4)||($11,799,000)|
|Close Tuscola re-entry center||(34.0)||($3,849,000)|
|Re-open Muskegon prison||209.4||$22,948,000|
|Food service/transportation/health care||26.0||$3,500,000|
Boilerplate Changes from 2011-2012
The finalized budget for FY 2012-13 call for the Maxey juvenile justice center and two similar facilities to remain open, although they will see a combined cut of about $2 million. The House-passed version of this budget had called for the closure of all three facilities. Additionally, all Kent County DHS operations (except child welfare workers) are to be privatized. A work group will be created whose goal it will be to strategize exactly how the privatization will be carried out when it goes into effect on September 30th, 2013.
Also in the Human Services budget is $250,000 for two pilot DHS offices to be opened. The offices will be focusing on an effort to improve the turnaround time for people applying for Medicaid. The Senate DHS Appropriations Subcommittee chair, Sen. Caswell (R-Hillsdale), said that if these offices provide marked improvements to the system, the pilot program will be expanded statewide, and if not, privatization may be the alternative.
The House has yet to act on two bills (HB 5174, Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo and HB 5177, Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland) that would allow the Department of Corrections to contract with the operator of the privately-owned correctional facility in Lake County—or any other public or private correctional facility providers—if the contract would result in an annual cost savings of at least 10%. The Senate has passed similar legislation (SB 877-8, Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph). We continue to encourage contact with House members regarding the inherent problems with privatizing correctional services. Points you may wish to raise with your state representative include:
As far as privatizing an entire facility—our message should be: tried that, been there, it didn’t work! Urge your state representative to vote “NO” on all four of these bills: HB 5174 and 5177 and SB 877-8.
House Bill 5658 was introduced recently by Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland). The legislation would make it possible for inmates serving time in state, county or re-entry programs to be assigned work under private contractors. Prisoners could only work for these private contractors if they are producing goods used solely in state, county, or re-entry correctional facilities. The bill also stipulates that these prisoners can be paid a stipend and do not need to be paid minimum or prevailing wages- as current law requires for any inmate worker.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) budget for FY 2012-13 does leave open the possibility for competitive bidding, although there are currently no private contractors employing any Michigan prisoners. Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw) raised some concerns in committee that this type of policy may end up replacing, in many situations, private contracted labor from prisoners with work currently being done by correctional officers and prison staff, which not only takes away jobs, but also puts quality of work into question.
Concerns have been raised about the safety precautions that would be neglected since private contractors do not have any training in the supervision of prisoners. In response to the negative reaction from Michigan unions regarding his bill, Rep. Haveman conceded that he expected as much, but that the bill is a way to create fair competitive bidding for the state in the years to come.
HB 5658 was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee and has passed the House with a 63-44 margin.