The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Casperson visits GCC for Ojibway closure discussion

 

July 24, 2018

Submitted photo

Gogebic Community College convened an advocacy group comprised of representatives from local municipalities along with area business leaders on Monday regarding the possible closure of the Ojibwa Correctional facility. Pictured from left are David Sim, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations at Aspirus Ironwood, Senator Tom Casperson and Marty Fittante/Casperson's Legislative Aide and Erik Guenard, Dean of Business Services/Interim President at Gogebic Community College.

By JEAN NORDINE

jnordine@yourdailyglobe.com

Ironwood - Michigan State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, met with 25 representatives from local municipalities and area businesses at Gogebic Community College Monday evening to discuss what can be done to sway the Department of Corrections from closing the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco.

Thirty prisons remain open in the state after the closure of the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon earlier this year, but there is a 1,000 prison bed surplus and one more facility will be shut down by 2019.

According to the House and Senate conference committee, the closure of another facility would result in an estimated $19.2 million in savings for the state.

Besides Ojibway, three other prisons are being considered for closure - including a facility in Newberry.

The MDOC isn't the only party to make decisions about prisons. It's a joint decision that includes input from the Gov. Rick Snyder and the legislature.

Casperson said yesterday's meeting was a, "Good meeting, participation was great and we got some new ideas."

When the senate's August session begins, Casperson will take the information and ideas gathered from the meeting to show state officials the impact losing Ojibway would have on the community. A small number from the advocacy group will also travel to Lansing to attend those meetings.

"We need to make the best pitch we can," Casperson said.

It's one thing to say that the closure could have a $55 million impact on area, but Casperson needs to know what the breakdown of that impact is.

"Local officials have the best numbers," he said.

Area municipalities are now fine tuning figures for the senator to present; such as an accurate number for the potential loss of students in area schools, as well as specific impacts on areas such as for health care, government and public services.

The advocacy group also discussed ways to save on operating costs at Ojibway.

Money could be saved by buying locally, therefore saving the prison money and putting money into the local economy. The prison gets their supplies from Michigan State Industries, a program with the MDOC that only sells its products and services to government entities and non-profit organizations. The problem is MSI offers those goods and services at a much higher price.

As Ojibway is a non-cluster prison - meaning the nearest prison is over 100 miles away - it would be harder for the prison's roughly 200 employees to find other jobs in their chosen field, or in the area at all.

Downstate someone losing their prison job may not be anywhere near the hardship that it is in the western U.P.

Casperson encouraged the public to get involved.

"Don't take it for granted that it won't happen. Get the community invested in the effort," he said.

A final decision is not expected until October, but the community can get involved now by contacting their state representatives Gov. Rick Snyder at 517-373-3400, State Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) at 517-373-0850 and/or Heidi E. Washington, Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections at 517-373-0720.

 
 

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