Prisoners wanted

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Many Michigan prisons sit empty these days, a product of budget cuts and thousands upon thousands of paroled prisoners.

“We’ve paroled 13,000 prisoners, we’ve seen a reduction with recidivism rates, reductions in overall felonies,” said Russ Marlan of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

But what Michigan now has too much of — California and other states like it don’t have enough — space for an overcrowding prisoner population.

Governor Granholm sent a letter to California Governor Schwarzenegger formally offering space in two Michigan facilities set to close.

“This could be mutually beneficial to both states,” Megan Brown, spokesperson for the Governor, said. “This is really about jobs for us, this could save jobs for many of our employees.”

In the past seven years, the state has saved more than $200 million by closing 11 facilities and reducing beds by more the 7,400. Bringing prisoners from other states to Michigan could save more than 500 jobs.

Marlan said other states have shown interest in Michigan’s minimum-security prisons as well.

“When we knew we would be closing correctional facilities and taking beds off line, we started talking to other states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to see if there was interest out there,” Marlan said.

The cost to rent a room depends on a lot of factors.
“It depends on the programming, what kinds of staff ratio we would need, also what security level the prisoners are, etc,” Brown said.

A team from California is set to tour Michigan facilities in a few weeks.

Michigan sent some prisoners to Virginia in the 1990s when the state had too many inmates; other states have done this as well.

Marlan says this really wouldn’t be a moneymaking venture for the state if it does happen. He expects the department would break even, but be able keep jobs and those facilities open.