Mich. prison still hopes for Calif. prisoners, but budget woes loom

By Kathryn Lynch-Morin
Bay City Times

STANDISH, Mich. — Negotiations between California and Michigan corrections officials are continuing, but a budget deal crafted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could threaten the plan to bring California's prisoners to Standish.

Representatives from the California Department of Corrections made visits to the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility and the Muskegon Correctional Facility last week.

Seth Unger, California Department of Corrections spokesman, called the meetings productive.

"We anticipate going forward," Unger said.

He said the negotiations are still in the fact-finding stage, as Michigan needs to assure officials that their prisoners will live under California standards.

"We have to be certain that California prisoners will be treated in a way that is consistent with our policies and procedures," Unger said.

Wednesday, Schwarzenegger laid out a budget plan for the cash-strapped state, including reducing the prison budget by $1.2 billion by granting inmates early release and changing some felonies to misdemeanors.

The moves could reduce the state's prison population by nearly 27,000 inmates.

John Cordell, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said his agency is moving forward with negotiations and is working on a formal proposal for California to consider.

The proposal will include the cost of housing California prisoners in Michigan, among other things, he said.

He acknowledged California's budget could hinder the process.

"Part of that (budget) is a release of several thousand prisoners that could alleviate the need for more prison beds," he said. "We are still in negotiations and we are waiting to see how this plays out."

Cordell said California prison officials were impressed with both the Standish and Muskegon sites during last week's visits.

"Hopefully we will have a decision within a month or so," he said.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 Bay City Times

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