Economy
2:52 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Prison chief: Inmates should learn building skills, work in community projects

There’s not a lot of industry inside Michigan’s prisons right now. Most of the jobs involve making prison or guard uniforms.

Dan Heyns says he wants to change that.

The new head of the Michigan Department of Corrections says prisoners should be learning job skills they can use when they’re released.

Heyns has formed a woring group of the state’s 33 prison wardens to look at some options for inmates. Learning the construction trade is one of them.

Another option is for prisons to partner with communities, cleaning up parks, for example.

“There are an awful lot of projects in communities – because they’re so cash-strapped – that wouldn’t get done if not for access to a reasonably cheap labor force," Heyns says.

He says the community projects would give taxpayers something in return for the $2 billion dollar annual state corrections budget.

Heyns also says construction skills would be useful for inmates to learn. He suggested former prisoners could build Department of Natural Resources huts or migrant housing units.