West Shoreline Correctional Facility to close in March

Photo credit: Michigan Department of Corrections

MUSKEGON — The Michigan Department of Corrections announced today that the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights will close on March 24, 2018 to compensate for a significant decline in the prison population statewide.

Staff members were notified by MDOC leadership at the facility today. The facility employs 174.

“We’re grateful for all the hard work of West Shoreline staff and will continue to support them as we wind down operations at the facility,” MDOC Director Heidi Washington said. “Closures are challenging, but this represents a step in the right direction as we focus on giving offenders the skills they need to be successful in the community so they do not return to prison.”

The department will begin working immediately with the employees and their union leadership. The department will attempt to absorb as many staff as possible into the vacancies the MDOC currently has throughout the system. It will begin working with the various unions and the Office of State Employer on bumping chains and transfer options for employees. All options will be considered to minimize the impact on staff.

The MDOC will also work with the Department of Talent and Economic Development and Michigan Works! Agencies across the state to take advantage of each agency’s ability to assist with displaced workers.

In the past three years, a renewed focus on prisoner education and vocational training, combined with fewer individuals coming to prison and fewer returning to prison upon release, has led to the state’s prison population declining by more than 7 percent.

Earlier this year, the state’s prison population dropped to below 40,000 for the first time in more than 20 years. Michigan’s prison population peaked in March 2007 when it stood at 51,554. Since the implementation of Washington’s “Offender Success” model in 2015, the prison population has declined by more than 3,000 prisoners. At the same time, the state’s recidivism rate has remained near historic lows and is one of the lowest in the country at 29.8 percent.

Since 2005, the department has closed and consolidated 26 facilities and camps, which has resulted in nearly $400 million in budget reductions. West Shoreline’s closing is expected to save taxpayers $18.8 million in the state’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The last prison closure in Michigan was in September 2016 with the closing of the Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley.

“We will continue our mission to protect the public and help offenders lead better lives while being wise stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Washington said.

The prison, which was built in 1987, houses 1,245 secure level I prisoners.

There was no single determining factor that led to the closure of this facility specifically, as the department weighs a variety of issues when making such a decision. Those can include bed space vacancy and staff impact.

Michigan Corrections Organization President Tom Tylutki said in a statement that “It’s unfortunate for corrections officers any time a prison closure is announced, because their lives are affected so deeply. A closure is a time of uncertainty and stress for officers because their employment, work location, living arrangements, childcare, and other critical aspects of day-to-day life are made uncertain. We know it is a difficult process, but like MCO has done in the past, we will work to ensure the West Shoreline closure goes as smoothly as it possibly can. All these details that impact officers’ lives must be sorted out, according to MDOC and MCO protocol, in the coming weeks. MCO will keep members updated every step of the way.”

In response to the state closing the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights as opposed to the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco, state Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) issued the following statement:

“With the help of our local communities and stakeholders, I am pleased to hear that the Michigan Department of Corrections will not be closing the Ojibway Correctional Facility. I recently took a tour of the prison and I was impressed with the correction officers and staff who run a tight ship. Their tidy operation along with the support of the community truly helped to keep the facility open and good-paying jobs right here in Gogebic County. While another community suffers a loss of an employer, the closure of the prison in Marenisco would have been especially devastating for our local area.”