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michigan department of corrections

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The Michigan Department of Corrections is rolling out video visitation for inmates during the pandemic.

It's hoped that will help inmates stay connected with loved ones they can no longer see in person.   

MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz says it could be a long time before in-person visits start up again, especially as cases on the outside begin to rise.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s declining state prison inmate population is prompting state corrections officials to shut down a re-entry facility in Detroit.

The Detroit Reentry Center opened in the former Ryan Correctional Facility after it closed in 2012.

The center provided housing and programs for parolees and prisoners needing dialysis treatment.  But recently, the center has been handling only about a fifth of its peak number of offenders.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The union representing corrections officers in Michigan is holding pickets outside some of the state’s prisons. The union says the prisons are understaffed, creating a dangerous situation.

The President of the Michigan Corrections Organization, Byron Osborn, and several officers were in front of the Detroit Detention Center on Wednesday. Osborn says there are about 750 unfilled positions at Michigan prisons right now and each year the department only hires about as many staff as the number who quit.

prison bars
Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The union that represents corrections officers in state prisons has called for Corrections Director Heidi Washington to be fired.

The 6,000 member union outlined its list of grievances in a letter to Washington it also shared with Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Byron Osborn is the president of the Michigan Corrections Organization.

prison exterior
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

In April and May, Michigan prisons saw a wave of COVID-19 infections among inmates. Things simmered down in midsummer, but have spiked again recently with a large outbreak at the Muskegon Correctional Facility.

Throughout the pandemic, prisoners have raised concerns about how the Michigan Department of Corrections is responding to COVID-19 in the state's prisons. 

Joey Horan is a reporter with Outlier Media. In an investigation for Bridge Magazine, he found that once the virus enters a facility, prison officials rely heavily on punitive measures to control its spread.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections is nearing its goal of testing all prisoners in state facilities. By the end of next week it should be finished. The National Guard has been assisting the prison system with testing prisoners.

At the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian there are 1,965 prisoners. A total of 716 have tested positive.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Starting Monday, Michigan National Guard medical personnel will visit the six prisons in the Upper Peninsula to help the Michigan Department of Corrections conduct mass testing of the inmates.

cell block in a prison
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The coronavirus is rapidly spreading in some Michigan prisons, especially Lakeland Correctional Facility, Parnell Correctional Facility, Cotton Correctional Facility, Macomb Correctional Facility, and the Women's Correctional Facility.

Forty-one inmates in Michigan prisons have died of COVID-19 as of April 30. 1,412 others have tested positive for COVID-19.

There could be hundreds, if not thousands, more who have been infected. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of inmates at one of Michigan’s prisons have tested positive for COVID-19. The number is expected to rise.

The Michigan Department of Corrections confirms more than 600 prisoners have tested positive at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater. In an email, spokesman Chris Gautz indicated not all results are in and the number will grow.

Dave Nakayama / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A Michigan prisoner who was sent to the hospital earlier this month has tested positive for  COVID-19. The inmate was taken to a hospital on March 11th for medical care unrelated to the new coronavirus. 

The prisoner was at that hospital for almost a week. Then he was transferred to a second hospital.

“Where he was placed on a floor with members of the public who were suspected of having COVID-19,” said Chris Gautz, Public Information Officer with the Department of Corrections.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections and Catholic Charities are working to find a way to restore ‘substance abuse training’ for inmates. Without the training, many inmates who would be eligible for parole will remain in prison.

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The rate of recidivism in Michigan has been going down gradually over the last ten years, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Exterior of fence and prison grounds
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

State Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) has introduced a bill that would require the Michigan Department of Corrections to provide a one-year advance notice of the closure of any prison in the state, as well as require the department to conduct community impact studies.

McBroom's district saw the closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility last year. The facility was the region's largest employer.

"All the taxpayers of Michigan are owed an explanation on the proposed closure," McBroom told Gongwer News Service, adding the Marenisco Township community where the facility was located was "still in the process of being numb" over the impact of the closure.

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Employees at the Michigan Department of Corrections face a higher chance of Major Depressive Disorder than first responders and other high stress jobs. That’s according to a new report released Monday.

The study found that about one in four MDOC employees would meet criteria for PTSD if they were screened.

DTE Energy | Tree maintenance

The Michigan Department of Corrections has partnered with DTE Energy and IBEW Local 17 to train inmates in trimming trees.

MDOC worked very closely with DTE and IBEW Local 17 to develop the curriculum for the program, located at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson. It allows inmates to get hands-on experience. 

prison bars
Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed bills into law that will permit some medically frail and seriously ill inmates to be paroled.

They will be cared for in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes instead. That means Medicare and Medicaid will pay for the inmates' care, rather than state taxpayer dollars.

prison bars
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The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $860,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a prisoner who killed herself.

Janika Edmond killed herself in 2015 at an Ann Arbor-area women's prison.

The lawsuit says prison staff members failed to respond properly to a threat of suicide after Edmond yelled for a suicide prevention vest.

Dianna Callahan of Flint was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading no contest to involuntary manslaughter.

She was accused of saying, "somebody owes me lunch," after Edmond asked for the vest.

Prison wall
Microsoft Images

Geo Group, a private prison company that operates more than 50 prisons across the country, says it will re-open the former North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.

The facility in the northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan closed in 2011.

Geo Group says it has signed a 10-year, $37 million contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the purpose of housing non-U.S. citizens convicted of immigration offenses and other crimes. 

Because the state doesn't own the facility, it can't block the deal. 

Cary Johnson in front of fence
Courtesy of Cary Johnson

A note of warning: there is some brief graphic language in the interview. Listener discretion is advised.

  

In the past two years, the Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson has lost four correctional officers to suicide. Earlier this month, his family and co-workers honored Michael Perdue, a long-time CO at Cotton, who died by suicide this year.

Corrections officers across the state are hoping these tragic losses will bring attention to the pressures of working in prisons.

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A former Michigan corrections officer has sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), alleging the agency discriminated against her based on sexual orientation and race.

The Livingston Daily Press & Argus reports that Ashley Menchaca, who is Hispanic and gay, worked at the Woodland Center Facility in Whitmore Lake from January 2016 until she resigned May 2017.

Flickr user Still Burning / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Tuesday morning, the Michigan Department of Corrections announced plans to close the Ojibway Correctional Facility in December.

The DOC decided to close another prison back in June. This is the second facility to close this year due to a falling prisoner populations in the state.

There are currently fewer than 800 prisoners at Ojibway, and they'll be moved into other prisons over the course of the next few months. 

Bueno and other Luck Inc members
Courtesy of LUCK Inc.

 


Upon release from prison, ex-offenders often enter a world full of uncertainty. Where do you live? Where do you work? How do you survive? 

Mario Bueno tries to help people find these answers. He is the co-founder of Luck Inc., a non-profit headquartered in Detroit helping ex-offenders get on their feet. Bueno joined Stateside's Lester Graham to talk about how he started doing this work. 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The number of criminal offenders who return to prison within three years hit a record low last year -- to 28%. The recidivism high was 46% in 1998.

Chris Gautz is a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says the department is doing a lot more outreach to get communities to support released offenders.

And field agents can now actually go out more in the field, thanks to new smart phones and laptops. That lets them check up on people at their places of work, so someone doesn't have to ask for a day off just to report for probation.

A "No Trespassing" sign hangs outside the Handlon Correction Facility.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Drone technology is quickly becoming more sophisticated and affordable. While that's great for people who want a drone under the Christmas tree - it's a nightmare for prison officials. 

Criminals are using drones to try to smuggle in drugs, cell phones, and other contraband.

Michigan Department of Corrections

A man in Michigan who was sentenced to life in prison without parole nearly 50 years ago as a teenager may soon be released.

The Herald-Palladium reports that at 17 years old, Bobby Gene Griffin was handed Michigan's then-automatic life without parole sentence for the 1967 murder of Minnie Peaples. The law has since changed, saying juveniles convicted of murder won't receive mandatory life sentences.

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

The state is hammering out its budget. And lawmakers are having a sharp disagreement with the governor’s office over one of Michigan’s biggest price tags – the corrections budget. Both sides agree rehabilitation and lowering recidivism is the way to go. But they can’t agree on how much money to spend this year.

At stake are programs – like the Vocational Village in Ionia – that have helped lower the state’s incarceration rate.

The Michigan state capitol building
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Two sticking points in Lansing lately are prisons and infrastructure.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Republican State Senator John Proos says Governor Rick Snyder's proposed budget has some misguided priorities.

He says the budget allocates $100 more  per K-12 student for 2018 - and $1,480 more per prison inmate. 

Proos claims the extra prison money is essentially for overhead - covering the cost of empty beds as the inmate population shrinks.   Michigan's prison population is projected to shrink from approximately 42,333 in 2016-17 to 40,415 in 2017-2018.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A national humanitarian organization says Michigan's prison system is keeping Jewish inmates from celebrating Hanukkah because they are not allowed to use matches or lighters.

Surfside, Florida-based Aleph Institute says prisoners are unable to light menorahs over the eight-day Hanukkah observance that starts Saturday.

Rabbi Menachem Katz says Corrections officials "should have a little compassion."

Prison policy prevents inmates from possessing candles, lighters and other incendiary devices during group religious services or activities.

Prison bars
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A former Michigan prison guard is facing charges stemming from the death of an inmate at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Township.

Janika Edmond committed suicide after she was left unsupervised in a shower at the prison last year.

The 25-year-old allegedly told guard Dianna Callahan that she was going to kill herself and asked to be placed in a protective restraint.

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