michigan department of corrections

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Michigan is closing one of its 32 prisons to save $22 million in the next fiscal year.

The Pugsley Correctional Facility in Grand Traverse County will close in September. The minimum security prison has more than 1,300 beds and 230 employees. It’s been open since 1956.

The corrections department made the announcement Tuesday, a day before a legislative committee is expected to endorse the closure in the next state budget.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder does not appear to like a state Senate plan to close two prisons and lease a private prison.  

A Senate subcommittee approved the plan last week as a way to save $15 million.  

Snyder asks,“If you’re closing prisons, why lease another?”

“I view this as part of the normal budget process…..that wasn’t part of our budget recommendation,” Snyder told reporters.

Senators are proposing closing prisons to save money as Michigan’s prison population declines.  

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Two prisons would close under a plan adopted today by a state Senate budget subcommittee.

The budget proposal does not specify which prisons would be closed. That would be up to the Department of Corrections.

The proposal also calls for the state to lease a privately owned prison in the northern Michigan town of Baldwin that’s currently used to house out-of-state inmates. The move is a response to a decline in the number of prison inmates.

Paul Wright / Flickr Creative Commons /http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Department of Corrections is setting up a 30-person unit to monitor the department's 184 private contracts for services, including food and medical treatment.

The department came under intense scrutiny last year for major problems with its food service provider.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Tomorrow, a state House committee will consider changes to the juvenile justice system in Michigan.

The House Criminal Justice committee is scheduled to discuss the 20-bill package starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Among other things, the package of bills would bar housing youth offenders with adult convicts and raise the age of mandatory adult sentences.   

Some women in state prison housed in TV rooms, offices

Nov 23, 2015
Kate Ter Haar / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Some inmates at Michigan's only women's prison are being housed in converted television rooms and offices. But Michigan Department of Corrections officials say they do not have an overcrowding problem. 

According to MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz, the population of Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility has increased by about 16 percent – from 1,900 in 2011 to 2,200 now.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Drones have many uses. But Michigan lawmakers want to discourage one in particular: delivering contraband to state prison inmates.

Across the country in recent months, people trying to smuggle all kinds of things into prisons have turned to drones. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers this week will discuss outside oversight for prison food facilities.

State Representative John Kivela, D-Marquette, wants local health departments to inspect prison kitchens.

The facilities have been self-inspecting for decades.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A national group representing the left and right of the political spectrum is concentrating on Michigan as ripe for criminal justice changes that include releasing parolees earlier and taming law enforcement's seizure of people's assets regardless of whether charges are filed.

  The U.S. Justice Action Network comprises groups such as the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and conservative FreedomWorks. The organization's executive director, Holly Harris, has been lobbying lawmakers and hopes legislation is enacted by year's end.

School Bus
Nicolae Gerasim / Flickr

Michigan prisoners have raised more than $53,000 to help buy children school uniforms and supplies. The program, Dress for Success, is part of the Pathways to Potential project of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan appeals court has ruled in favor of the state and dismissed a major class-action lawsuit by young prisoners who said guards failed to stop sexual assaults behind bars.

The court says Michigan's civil rights law doesn't apply to lawsuits by prisoners. It also dismissed the case on other technical grounds in a decision released Wednesday.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

State lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow a private prison near Baldwin to reopen and house high-security inmates. It now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

Vermont intends to move more than 300 high-security inmates to the prison near Baldwin. Those inmates include ones with a history of violent behavior in prison and who have attempted to escape.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

A private prison near Baldwin, Michigan could re-open, adding 150 jobs to the economy, under a bill sponsored by state Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo. The prison operated from 1998 through 2005 as a private youth facility, and was open again briefly later housing inmates from California. It closed again in 2011. 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Snyder administration says an official overseeing Michigan's prison food contract with Aramark Correctional Services has left the job after five months.

Ed Buss is an ex-Florida and Indiana prison chief. He began work Sept. 2 overseeing Michigan's three-year, $145 million contract with Philadelphia-based Aramark.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT - A lawmaker from western Michigan is leading an effort to possibly save millions of dollars in the criminal justice system.

  Rep. Joe Haveman, a Republican from Holland, hopes to bring a pack of the bills to the House floor this week that would make changes in the parole process and create a commission to study sentences.

  Haveman wants to try to get more people out of prison if they're eligible for parole and not a risk to the public. He's been working with prosecutors, judges, sheriffs and defense lawyers on a compromise.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The company behind Michigan’s troubled prison food service is keeping its contract.  But it’s also paying a price.

Aramark’s problems have ranged from maggots in the food to food service employees having sexual relations with inmates. 

Gov. Rick Snyder today announced Aramark will pay a $200,000 fine. The governor says there will also be changes to the food service contract.     

Photo courtesy of Michigan's Attorney General office / michigan.gov

A report by the Michigan Attorney General's office has found both human and technology failures played a part in the prison escape of a convicted murderer.

Michael Elliot slipped out of the Ionia Correctional Facility last February 2 by crawling under fences during a heavy snowfall. He wore white clothes to blend into the snow. He was captured about 24 hours later in Indiana.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Sex with inmates - maggots in the food - smuggling drugs to inmates - undercooked or spoiled food.

When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed inmates in Michigan prisons?

The privatization was supposed to save the state more than $12 million a year. But it's been a Pandora's box of troubles for state prison officials ever since Aramark took over last December.

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau joined us today. He has reported on all the problems associated with the Aramark contract. Egan said that so far, things are not getting any better.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's been known for decades as the world's largest walled prison - the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson.

Now some of the very colorful stories from that prison and from Jackson are told in the new Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. It's a joint venture of the Ella Sharp Museum and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The museum is renting part of cell block seven, which still houses inmates.

MLive’s Leanne Smith said the museum covers the history of the prison, the inmates, wardens, and guards since 1838.

“It is an actual cell block,” Smith said. “You walk in and there is no doubt as to where you are.”

*Listen to full interview above. 

Michigan Department of Corrections

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Leon Echols has spent his adult years in Michigan prisons for killing a man when he was 18. He's not eligible for parole until he's in his 80s, but he's been trying to convince authorities that his punishment doesn't fit the crime.  

Echols was convicted of second-degree murder in 1989 for shooting a man in a dispute over a used car. He says it was self-defense.

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Aramark Correctional Services, the private company that provides food to Michigan prisons, is in trouble again.

Inmates at the Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center in Jackson found maggots while peeling potatoes Tuesday morning.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the warden was notified, and quickly moved to dispose of all the potatoes.

The kitchen was then thoroughly bleached. No resulting health problems have been reported.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Michigan’s Department of Corrections says problems with Aramark, the company that provides inmates their meals, have the potential to compromise safety and security in the state's prisons.

Food service was privatized at Michigan’s 31 prisons in December, saving roughly $16 million a year.

“Literally from a Saturday to a Sunday it transitioned to 360 contractor workers who, in many cases, had never been inside a correctional facility,” Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said. “So we expected some problems, we expected some issues.”

Larry Farr / Morguefile

Helping prison officials and the families of prisoners communicate better is the goal of a pilot project at three Michigan prisons. So is providing support to the families of prisoners.

The privately funded Family Participation Program will partner with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

MDOC spokesperson Russ Marlan says it's hard for family members to negotiate the unfamiliar world of prisons. 

He said having an independent liaison for each prison will make it easier for family members to get their questions answered.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - About 130 Michigan prison inmates will have an opportunity to seek parole in a case that ends an unusual state policy of treating them as mandatory lifers.

The state won't appeal a 2013 court decision that struck down the policy and has agreed to clear the way for a parole process. Judge Deborah Servitto signed an order last week.

It's an odd case. The inmates were sent to prison with life sentences for a variety of crimes but still had a chance at parole. Then they got in trouble for possessing a weapon or committing another offense behind bars.

Tim Pierce, Los Gatos / Creative Commons

Michigan’s rate of people returning to prison continues its steady decline.

The recidivism rate is now at 29%. That’s an all-time low for the state. It’s a pretty good rate compared to other states, too.

“That’s really what every corrections department across the country wants to see,” Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said. “You know you’re doing an effective job of transitioning people from prison back to their communities.”

Marlan says the lower rate translates to safer communities.

Michigan Department of Corrections

The Michigan Department of Corrections has released a report on last month’s escape from a state prison in Ionia. The report puts much of the blame on two corrections employees.

Convicted killer Michael Elliot, dressed all in white to match the snow on the ground, slipped through the fences at the Ionia Correctional facility to freedom the night of February 2. He was captured in northern Indiana the next day, after carjacking a woman in Ionia.

Michigan Dept. of Corrections

IONIA, Mich. (AP) - The convicted killer who escaped from a Michigan prison says it "was relatively simple."

Michael Elliot was discovered missing Sunday during an inmate count at the Ionia Correctional Facility, 30 miles east of Grand Rapids. The 40-year-old was arrested Monday in northwestern Indiana, driving a stolen vehicle.

The Detroit Free Press reports Elliot used his one phone call at the Indiana jail where he's being held on $1 million bond to discuss the escape with the newspaper.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

IONIA, Mich. (AP) - Two employees have been suspended at a western Michigan prison where a convicted killer escaped for 24 hours.

Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan says one is an officer and the other is a shift commander. He declined to provide their names or any other details but says the suspensions are related to the investigation at the Ionia Correctional Facility.

Michael Elliot escaped last Sunday and left the state in a Jeep that belonged to a Belding woman. She got away later that night. Elliot was captured Monday in northwestern Indiana.

Donald Harrison / Flickr

Jackson, Michigan was home to one of the largest prisons in the world – the Michigan State Prison, later renamed the State Prison of Southern Michigan.

We went on a tour of the old prison with Jackson Historic Prison Tours. While there we met some former prisoners and prison staff, and decided to follow up with them afterwards.

Listen to their powerful stories above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says he plans to push ahead with plans to privatize food service for the state's 45,000 prison inmates under a proposed $145 million, 3-year contract.

Snyder tells the Detroit Free Press that he'll consider objections from Republican state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and unionized prison employees and others but won't let them block the process.

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