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As Michigan's prisoner population falls, another state prison could close its doors

A chain-link fence and barbed wire
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House and Senate budget committees recommend closing another Michigan prison as the state's prison population continues to fall.

Michigan is projecting a continued decrease of its prisoner population this year, and with that comes a decrease in prisons.

The state House and Senate budget committees both recommended a prison closure for the 2018-2019 fiscal year Tuesday.

Governor Snyder’s original budget proposal, submitted in February, did not include the prison closure. However, as the number of prisoners in the state continued to fall throughout the year, the legislature determined the Michigan Department of Corrections could safely close a prison.  

This would be the third prison closure in the state in two years. A facility in Kingsley, Michigan closed in 2016, and a Muskegon-area facility shut down earlier this year.

MDOC spokesperson Chris Gautz says the closures are a positive sign for the state. But they also mean uncertainty for some prison employees.

“We've always said that we're not afraid of a closure. Our goal is to reduce the prison population, and again, it's good our director's offender success model is working. But it also understandably creates anxiety for our staff,” he says.

Though some employees will inevitably be laid off, Gautz [Gowts] anticipates the majority of affected employees would be able to find another job within the department if they choose to stay on.

The MDOC has not yet decided which prison would close, or the exact timeline for the closure.

That decision will come sometime after October 1st and the MDOC will notify employees as soon as possible.

As a result of the closure, $19.2 million dollars would be trimmed from the department’s general fund budget.

“They basically trim the budgets of all of our prisons except for our women's prison,” Gautz says. “When we close and how expensive that facility is to run will ultimately determine how much savings there ends up actually being.”

Once the MDOC determined which prison to close, prisoners would be moved to vacant beds at other facilities around the state.

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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