The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Residents rally against closing Ojibway facility


August 25, 2018


Ironwood - More than 200 concerned citizens rallied in Ironwood Friday night in the parking lot across from Cloverland Cinemas to protest the Dec. 1 closing of the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco.

Since the Aug. 14 announcement by the Michigan Department of Corrections, many people in the western U.P. have been trying to find a way to ward off the closure and save 200 local jobs.

Prior to the announcement a group of people from local government, business and Gogebic Community College were planning to travel to the state capital to lobby for the prison's survival.

Gogebic County Board of Commissioners chair George Peterson, of Watersmeet, said, "We were making plans to travel downstate, but they beat us to the punch. County board members and other members of a committee working on this were going. I believe they did this now, knowing we were coming."

So what can be done now?

Friday night's rally had people from all over the western U.P. gather together in the rain.

A huge flag was flown as State Rep. Ed McBroom led the crowd in singing the National Anthem. The event was led by concerned citizen Crystal Suzik, who has spearheaded the drive against the closure.

She is working to file an injunction against the state. She said, "Time is of the essence, because they are already relocating up to 50 prisoners a week."

Suzik said, "The negative economic impacts far outweigh the benefits. We are not fully aware of the economic impacts because the DOC failed to conduct an economic impact study as required by Bill 944."

She continued, "Since the DOC did not do an economic impact study, we are going to do one for them and we must take it upon ourselves to communicate to Lansing and Washington, D.C., that our communities cannot withstand this type of economic devastation. The picture that has been painted is one that makes sense on paper - but they need to know the real-life implications from real people. And they need to know now!"

Suzik posed the question as to what changed from 2009, when the DOC chose not to close Ojibway.

According to then DOC director Patricia Caruso, "The prison is not near other prisons, meaning its employees would less likely be able to fill positions elsewhere. We would devastate that community and put the majority of people on the unemployment rolls."

Suzik also would like to know "if the prison system is trying to save money, why was a new heating and boiler system added in 2016 and why did they authorize a $1.3 million upgrade to the camera system in 2017?"

Suzik had a request for Gov. Rick Snyder and DOC director Heidi Washington. "The least they can do is come up here and look the people in the eye and explain their decision," she said.

An informational sheet was passed around at the rally telling people what they can do to help.

"Call, write or e-mail your state and local representatives. Be positive and stick to the facts. Invite them to visit the western U.P. so that they can see first-hand some of the challenges we face," it said.


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