Mich. hopes to reuse 2 recently shuttered prisons


DETROIT (AP) — Michigan is still looking for federal or out-of-state inmates to fill a pair of recently shuttered prisons after reaching a deal with Pennsylvania to house 1,000 of that state’s prisoners, an official said.

The Standish Maximum Correctional Facility, about 145 miles north of Detroit, and the minimum-security Hiawatha Correctional Facility in the eastern Upper Peninsula could be reused, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman John Cordell said Tuesday.

“We’ll continue to go after prisoners so we can utilize that resource,” Cordell said.

Pennsylvania announced plans Monday to send 2,000 inmates within two months to the medium-security Muskegon Correctional Facility in Michigan and the Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, Va. The states will get $62 per prisoner per day from Pennsylvania and the deal will save many of the 264 jobs at the Muskegon prison.

It currently costs $59.85 per prisoner per day to house inmates in Muskegon, less than some other Michigan prisons. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm noted Tuesday that the state will make money on the deal, but the prison jobs saved offer the biggest benefit.

The Standish prison was being considered as a possible site to house suspected terrorists now being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Federal officials toured the prison in August. But plans outlined this month would use a northwest Illinois prison instead.

“We’re still pursuing other states and the federal government … to bring other prisoners to Standish,” Granholm said.

Standish has felt the economic fallout since the facility closed Oct. 31. About 100 of the 340 prison staff were laid off, and those who kept their jobs transferred to other prisons. Standish officials are holding out hope the prison will be reused, but the medium-facility Muskegon prison was what Pennsylvania needed.

“We were seriously disappointed,” Standish city manager Michael Moran said of Monday’s announcement.

Michigan had announced plans in June to close eight prison facilities, including Muskegon, Hiawatha and Standish, to save $120 million in the current budget year. Hiawatha, which closed in August, had 208 employees.

The state has been squeezing more inmates into existing prisons while paroling more prisoners. Its prison population of below 46,000 is the lowest since 2001.

Michigan is also drafting a new proposal to house some California inmates after an earlier offer was turned down in August, Cordell said.

Virginia and Michigan beat out Nevada, Kansas, Oklahoma and Minnesota for the chance to house Pennsylvania’s prisoners. As part of the contract, Michigan and Virginia will pay to transport prisoners to their states and, when needed, Pennsylvania will pay to send the prisoners back.

Proximity was key in the state’s decision to pick Michigan and Virginia, said Pennsylvania prison system spokeswoman Sue McNaughton. It’s about a seven-hour drive between Muskegon and the Erie, Pa. area, which has several prison facilities for men that are expected to send inmates to Michigan.

Inmates may be selected if they get relatively few visits, have no medical or mental-health issues and at least three years left on their sentences. There are now more than 51,000 inmates in Pennsylvania state prisons, while the capacity is about 44,000. Several new state prisons are planned.