Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

McBroom introduces bills to change prison closing process


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LANSING — State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, recently introduced two bills designed to change how the Michigan Department of Corrections closes prisons, requiring the department to consider the potential economic fallout of the closures and holding a public hearing on the decisions.

McBroom said the legislation came after the Senate Oversight Committee heard testimony earlier this year from the state’s Office of the Auditor General that the MDOC hadn’t retained sufficient documentation to support the December 2018 closure of Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marensico Township.

“After hearing the testimony from the auditor general and the Department of Corrections as well as speaking to the surrounding community, it was necessary to establish a process that was more transparent for the community,” McBroom said in a news release. “The commentary from the auditor general was not related to just the Ojibway closure, as this has been an ongoing problem from the department.”

Ojibway was one of several facilities the MDOC has closed in recent years. Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley was closed in 2016, and the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon was closed in 2018 along with Ojibway.

The legislation would require the MDOC to submit a report on the impact of closing a correctional facility, as well as what the actual and projected savings from the closure are, at least a year before the closure.

Senate Bill 694 would also, “Require the department to justify its selection of a correctional facility for closure and a detailed analysis of how the information gleaned from the report would impact the department,” according to the release.

It would also require a public hearing in the impacted community within 30 days of the report coming out to allow the public to weigh in on the decision. The hearing would have to be held at least six months before the actual closure.

Senate Bill 695 would help “Coordinate workforce development activities within an impacted local community, such as with Michigan Works! and other organizations, in a similar fashion as to what happens when a large private business closes or relocates,” the release read.

The MDOC is reviewing the legislation and hasn’t taken a position on the bills yet, a spokeswoman told the Daily Globe.

“The decision to close a prison is always a difficult one and there are many factors that we take into account, including our operational needs. The department is open to discussion about the bills and we do have some concerns about them,” MDOC communication representative Holly Kramer said in an email. “We believe the priority for our decisions should be our operations and ensuring we’re using taxpayer resources appropriately. A one-year delay could also have a significant impact on morale and operations at facilities as time goes on and staff begin to move elsewhere, while the facility remains open.”

The bills have been sent to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.