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Gang-related fighting prompts lockdown at mid-Michigan prison

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel
Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation

Inmates at a mid-Michigan prison are on lockdown after gang related fighting.

Multiple fights broke out over the course of several days. They started Thursday, and occurred multiple times on Sunday during meals and finally on the prison yard on Monday. The facility has been on lockdown since Monday at lunchtime. Lockdown means inmates don’t have any privileges and are confined to their cells.

Chris Gautz is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He said more than 30 prisoners fought over control of pay phones and terminals inmates use to send and receive e-mails.

“I don’t want to give the impression that there was a line of prisoners standing in front of the phones and our officers didn’t see it,” he said. “Saying like, ‘Oh you’re not in our group you can’t use the phone.’ It was much more subtle. It was behind the scenes.”

Gautz said the prison will phase out of the lockdown over the course of the next week.

“But we’re not going to do so quickly,” he said. “And we’re not going to do so until we feel that the safety and order of the facility can be maintained.”

About 20 inmates have been transferred. Others are waiting for hearings. The plan is to separate members of the gangs to dilute their power.


“We don’t want a group of prisoners feeling that they can have power and authority inside the walls,” Gautz said.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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