Lansing Mich. to reopen Muskegon prison, move Ryan inmates

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- State corrections officials said Thursday they plan to reopen the Muskegon Correctional Facility this fall, turn the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit into housing for parole violators and move the Tuscola Residential Re-entry program there.

The Michigan Department of Correction's action was seen as a boon in Muskegon, where 210 prison jobs will be created. But converting Ryan into the Detroit Re-entry Center will cause 200 jobs to be lost there.

Corrections officials said the change is needed so the department can house up to 400 parole violators in Detroit and not spend money transporting them to Jackson, but the move didn't sit well with a Detroit-area Democratic lawmaker.

"Although there is a need in for a parole violation facility in Detroit, it would make much more sense to place this facility at the recently closed Mound facility" in Detroit, Westland Rep. Glenn Anderson said in a release. He called the move "another attack on Detroit," noting it will result in lost jobs and move 1,000 inmates, many from the area, to prisons around the state.

Michigan Corrections Organization executive director Mel Grieshaber said he worries some corrections officers will have to move long distances to find jobs at other Michigan prisons. With fewer inmates housed in the state's largest city, families could have a harder time visiting their loved ones since many low-income Detroit residents don't own reliable transportation.

"Detroit takes another hit," Grieshaber said.

Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said the department will work with the union to try to offer every employee who loses a job work at another state prison. He estimates the changes will require 78 more workers be hired, even with Detroit's job losses.

Reopening the Muskegon facility will add room for 300 medium-security prisoners and enable the state to oversee them with fewer staff, Marlan said, saving an estimated $8.5 million annually.

The biggest reason for the move was to open up more space for parolees in Detroit. Over half the state's 20,000 parolees are in the city, and corrections officials now face the choice of taking parole violators to Jackson or releasing them.

"This will give us some beds where we can put these folks into custody" locally, Marlan said. "What we're getting is the 400 beds we needed ... (and) we're getting them at a very low cost."

As a corrections center, Ryan cost $35.4 million a year. Once it's converted into the Detroit Re-entry Center, it will cost $23 million annually to run.

Several other facilities will see their functions consolidated, too. The Tuscola Residential Re-entry program in Caro will shift to Detroit, and a Detroit Parole Office will relocate to the center. The center will have 400 short-term secure beds for parole violators and 160 beds for parolees in the Residential Re-entry program. About 400 additional parolees or parole violators also will stay there.

The department will spend $10.8 million more annually with the changes as it devotes more resources to overseeing parolees and helping them stay out of prison once they've served their time.

Some House Republicans have called for closing a prison in Ionia and sending about 1,300 inmates to a private prison in Michigan if it would save the state at least 10 percent. The state has only one private prison, the now-empty North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, which is run by Florida-based GEO Group.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration and the GOP-led Senate have called for savings in the corrections budget, but not for privatization. The matter could be resolved Tuesday as a joint House-Senate conference committee works on the corrections budget bill.

Lawmakers want to finish the total budget package by next Friday.

Published: Tue, May 29, 2012