BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published October 2, 2011
The city of Detroit is about to lose even more jobs as the Michigan Department of Corrections plans to close the Mound Correctional Facility and privatize medical services for prisoners. Approximately 2,000 employees will be laid off as a result of the plan. While many legislators voice support for the reform, stating that the changes have been “long overdue,” those opposed express concern over the negative impact on employees, communities and families of those imprisoned. The relocation of prisoners from the facility is another looming concern. The care of prisoners should be state regulated, not privatized, to avoid potential negative consequences. Closing the Mound Correctional Facility is a viable way to cut costs from the state's corrections budget, but closing prisons is not an effective way to solve all the problems in the corrections system.
The Mound Correctional Facility, which currently holds 1,000 prisoners and costs $32.6 million per year to operate, is set to close in January 2012. The corrections department will save up to $63 billion by 2013 by cutting from its budget, which is largely funded by the state rather than federal subsidies. Bids from private corporations to run the Woodland Center Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake, which will hold mentally ill inmates, are currently being discussed. In addition to closing the Mound facility, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to implement a number of privatization measures in the coming year, which include the privatization of prison stores and food services. Closing the facility will also diminish revenue and jobs for the city and nearby businesses.
Closing an entire facility isn't an effective way for Michigan to reduce its corrections budget. Instead, changing the operational structure of the system and putting in place the necessary procedures for closing prisons would be more appropriate than privatizing the system. Dangerous criminals should be locked up in a more stable facility upon the closure of the Mound Correctional Facility while criminals with less severe offenses should be sent to rehabilitation centers to seek the help they need. This will allow Michigan to drastically reduce its corrections budget and treat prisoners humanely.
Though Snyder has many privatization initiatives in mind, these measures have the potential to cause the mistreatment of prisoners. If companies take over, the treatment of prisoners may be in jeopardy. These corporations operate for profit and there wouldn't be any oversight to ensure the prisoners are receiving proper care and food. It's important that the care of prisoners be state regulated to minimize the negative impacts that will result from shutting down the facility.
The state needs to work on reducing the correctional budget by changing the overall system. State regulation should triumph over privatization to ensure humane and just treatment of those imprisoned.