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Budget fight brewing between Governor and Republican Senator over prison funding

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
An inmate cell in Jackson Prison

Republican State Senator John Proos says Governor Rick Snyder's proposed budget has some misguided priorities.

He says the budget allocates $100 more  per K-12 student for 2018 - and $1,480 more per prison inmate. 

Proos claims the extra prison money is essentially for overhead - covering the cost of empty beds as the inmate population shrinks.   Michigan's prison population is projected to shrink from approximately 42,333 in 2016-17 to 40,415 in 2017-2018.

He says the budget should force the Department of Corrections to reduce its costs - including closing prisons when possible.  Proos says schools have to downsize when the state cuts their funding, and the prison system has to do the same.

"We're just going to have to better manage the resources," says Proos, "or we're just going to end up paying for empty bed space."

Proos' claims generated a fair amount of heated disagreement from the Department of Corrections. Spokesman Chris Gautz says the Senator's math is all wrong.  He also says the governor's proposed budget increase covers higher costs for food, health care, utilities and staff - not empty beds.

Gautz adds the state just closed a prison seven months ago, and it's not in a position to close another one so soon. He says tightening the budget for Corrections would also create safety risks for employees and inmates.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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