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Battle over prison spending heats up

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A battle is heating up in Lansing over the state’s corrections budget.

Republican Senator John Proos’ subcommittee on corrections passed a budget that cuts the Department of Corrections' budget by about $40 million. Proos said because the prison population is down, continuing to spend about the same amount each year means they are spending too much per prisoner.

“That decrease prison population has decreased to such an extent that we have to recalibrate the way that we use our taxpayer dollars by virtue of paying for the beds that we need, not the beds that are open,” he said.

But the Michigan Department of Corrections says it’s not that simple.

"We need to be able to continue to run programs and invest in the things that are making a positive impact on our population,” said MDOC Director Heidi Washington.

She said the Senate’s proposed budget would not only cost people their jobs, it would cut necessary programs and support unnecessary ones.

“We’re on the right track and I’d like the ability to continue to move this department forward through the creation and implementation of programs that work,” she said.

Washington said the Department only asked for two things: enough money to hire and train more corrections officers and continue an alternative to prison program. She said both are in jeopardy under the proposed Senate budget.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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