LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State corrections officials are looking to keep open more than 100 job vacancies and put off prison maintenance projects in an effort to hold down spending after the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled they can’t reduce shifts in prison guard towers.

The appellate court late last month continued a temporary injunction on the proposed guard tower cuts until the issue is decided by the Michigan Civil Service Commission. Ingham County Judge James R. Giddings originally granted the injunction in November.

The Michigan Corrections Organization, which represents more than 10,000 corrections officers and other prison personnel, asked for the injunction. The union was worried fewer guard tower shifts would mean greater risk for injury because fewer people would be watching inmates.

The state Department of Corrections proposed cutting 20 guard shifts at Michigan’s most violent prisons to save an estimated $12.8 million in the current budget year.

The department is going ahead with other cost-saving measures because the earliest the Michigan Civil Service Commission could take up their plan is March 22, nearly halfway through the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said.

Marlan said the department is looking to leave open 137 vacant positions it had planned to fill, including positions in record offices, human resources and counseling. The vacancies will be difficult for the department, he said.

“With some of the budget cuts we’ve had over the past couple of years, every spot we planned to fill is desperately needed,” he said.

The department also will delay a number of maintenance projects at prisons across the state, including new prison roofs and some security improvements, Marlan said.

It’s unclear how much can be saved by cutting back on spending and keeping job vacancies open longer than expected. But Marlan said the department likely will have to come up with about $6 million in savings if it can’t reduce the number of guard tower shifts until halfway through the fiscal year.

Mel Grieshaber, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization, said the union understands the state’s continued fiscal constraints, but emphasized that guards are needed in the prison towers to protect inmates and other prison workers.

“They think the guard towers are a mechanism to prevent escapes,” he said about the department’s administration.

“We think it’s a safety mechanism.”


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