LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Last week, Michigan Department of Corrections officials said units in the Gus Harrison corrections facility in Adrian would stop operations along with the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia.
That means workers from those facilities will be transferred to help fill some of the openings at other facilities.
But one corrections officer said so much more needs to be done to make a real impact.
“Some folks are in a position, where they are holding on. “Well, listen, I’ll keep working the overtime but man, we are hoping for some light at the end of the tunnel here,” said Byron Osborn, President of the Michigan Corrections Organization.
Osborn has been a corrections officer for nearly three decades. He said prison employees are facing mandatory overtime as some locations even eliminate positions, making do with a smaller team.
He said there’s still a greater issue of retention, and it comes down to pay, benefits and workplace pressure.
“We’re hoping they follow the lead of some other states; Who have instituted signing bonuses for corrections officers, condensed pay scales and retention bonuses as well,” said Osborn.
Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson Chris Gautz said administrators are aware of the pressure on officers. He said state funding is helping add 800 new officers to the agency this year as well as modernizing uniforms and buildings.
“Typically we lose about 50 officers every month due to retirements and promotions. Now that number is north of 60, sometimes it’s upwards of 70. Sometimes when we are hiring 200, we’re almost kind of treading water because we’ve seen so many leave in the last three months,” said Gautz.
Gautz said tackling the issues officers face means hitting the hiring goal with easier sign-ups and improving training. He said as locations close due to falling prisoner populations, funding is in constant discussion in Lansing.
“We’ve had legislators say well you probably don’t need to hire as many people so we can cut the budget so we don’t need to fund your academies as much and we say hold on, no, we absolutely do,” said Gautz.
Stats from MDOC show the decrease of incarcerated Michiganders has been following since its peak of 51,554 prisoners in March 2007. It’s now 32,000 people.
Gautz said transition programming for prisoners and the work of corrections officers are behind a falling recidivism rate that is now 23.6 percent. Over 20 years ago, that was at 45 percent.
Department officials said in October, corrections officers and other state employees will see a five percent pay raise, something they are touting as the biggest raise of its kind in department history.