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Mich. prison set to close amid declining prisoner population

The prison population is at a more than 30-year low at about 32,000 inmates, according to the department

By Kara Berg
The Detroit News

IONIA, Mich. — The Michigan Reformatory prison in Ionia will close in November and an Adrian prison will consolidate four units due to declining prisoner populations, the Michigan Department of Corrections said Wednesday.

The prison population is at a more than 30-year low at about 32,000 inmates, according to the department. It peaked in 2007 at more than 51,000 people incarcerated at prisons across the state.

Eliminating the Ionia reformatory will drastically reduce the need for mandated overtime at the remaining three Ionia prisons, something that has been a problem because of a large number of vacancies, MDOC said in a news release. There are enough open positions at the three other Ionia prisons that employees at the Reformatory will have a chance to continue working with the department.

The Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian will also consolidate four units on the south side of the complex, according to the department. There are eight units total on the south side, four of which closed previously due to declining populations.

Closing the remaining four units will eliminate officer vacancies on the north side of the prison, according to MDOC.

“While these announcements are normally and understandably difficult on staff, in this instance we know it may be welcome news to many,” Department of Correction Director Heidi Washington said in a statement. “This will provide much-needed relief to our officers, nurses and other employees who have worked significant overtime shifts over the past few years.”

Part of the population decline comes from Michigan’s low recidivism rate, according to MDOC. The recidivism rate has dropped nearly 20 percentage points to 23.6% over the past 20 years as fewer parolees commit new crimes.

“Today’s announcement will not only provide relief to so many of our employees, but is a sign of our continued success,” Washington said. “When you couple that with the lowest recidivism rate in state history, we are able to take these significant steps that help our staff, allow us to still provide exceptional public safety and continue to be good stewards of taxpayer resources.”

Prisoners at the Reformatory and in the four units at Gus Harrison will be moved to other prisons with available bed space.