LANSING (AP) – Sick inmates at a prison in Jackson are being taken elsewhere now that the state has approval to close the facility.
Twenty-five to 30 prisoners were moved to other prisons yesterday, said Russ Marlan, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. Another 100 will be moved this week, with the remaining 435 transferred gradually over the next month. The Corrections Department plans to close the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility by Nov. 15.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids has again approved a plan to transfer the sick inmates. Federal appeals by inmates lawyers’ have been unsuccessful, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday issued a mandate giving effect to an earlier decision to largely stay out of the dispute.
Governor Jennifer Granholm’s administration wants to close the 1,400-bed Jackson prison to save $35 million and help balance the state budget.
Inmates’ lawyers who sued to block the prison’s closure have said the state wants it closed to escape long-standing and costly federal oversight of the health care system at the Jackson prison complex.
Jonker recently took over the class-action case after U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen in Kalamazoo asked that it be transferred. While Enslen had blocked the plan to close the prison and ordered the department to revise it, citing concerns over moving sick prisoners, Jonker said the transfer proposal was OK.
The Corrections Department has been under a federal consent decree in the case, known as Hadix, since 1985 to improve medical care and other conditions at the state prisons in Jackson.
The case has struck a nerve as lawmakers and Granholm continue grappling with major budget problems, including how to slow spending in the prison system that costs $2 billion a year to run.
About 335 employees who work at the Jackson prison will get letters in the next two weeks asking for volunteers to transfer to prisons in other parts of the state. Then the department will see how many of the remaining workers can be moved to other parts of the Jackson prison complex.
The Corrections Department also plans to officially close Camp Manistique, a minimum- security facility in the Upper Peninsula, this weekend. The prisoners already have been transferred out. Some state lawmakers want to keep the facility open during budget negotiations in coming weeks, but Granholm’s administration has much of the control over closing facilities.