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Corrections union asks Whitmer to fire prisons director

prison bars

The union that represents corrections officers in state prisons has called for Corrections Director Heidi Washington to be fired.

The 6,000 member union outlined its list of grievances in a letter to Washington it also shared with Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Byron Osborn is the president of the Michigan Corrections Organization.

He says the biggest issue is the department’s failure to fix working conditions that make it difficult to recruit and retain corrections officers.

“We just can’t maintain having these shortages and expecting these corrections officers to keep putting in these long, stressful hours in an environment that, pandemic aside, is already a stressful environment,” says Osborn.

Osborn says officers are forced to work many hours of mandatory overtime to make up for staffing shortages.

Osborn says the problem predates COVID-19. But he says the health crisis has made things worse.

“Well, when you’re talking about quarantine periods for staff, and that’s impacted our officers as well, when you start taking people away from the very few officers we’ve got, that puts us in an even worse situation,” he says.

Washington says in a statement that she’s committed to ensuring the wellbeing of corrections staff and inmates.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer also released a statement that she supports Washington.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.