Lawmakers and the Department of Corrections disagree over budget

Matthias Mueller

The Michigan Department of Corrections is sending out letters to lawmakers this week, pleading for changes to a proposed budget that would cut 41 million dollars to prison facilities statewide.

The Senate passed the controversial prison budget on May 4th.


The cuts are predicated on a declining prison population: in the last two years the Michigan Department of Corrections has reported a five percent decrease in prisoner populations.


Republican State Senator John Proos sponsored the budget bill. He said corrections spending needs to be efficient.


“What we did is we recognized with that decline comes a benefit to our taxpayers. And so we applied savings across all the lines of prison to make sure the taxpayers are not funding empty bed space.”


But Chris Gautz with the Michigan Department of Corrections said the way the budget was calculated was flawed.


“So what they’re saying is and what this budget is ‘well you’ve got 1600 fewer prisoners let’s multiply that by 34-thousand dollars, which again is a faulty number, and then lets just apply it across the board to every facility and say you guys have all these fewer prisoners and that means you can have less staff and less everything else that goes with running a prison.”


Guatz said the budget didn’t calculate the basic needs of day to day prison operations – and overestimated the cuts that could be made by losing individual prisoners. He also points out that Pugsley Correctional Facility already closed during this fiscal year.


“The senate is clearly trying to push us into closing another prison and we simply don’t have enough empty beds to close another prison.”


State Senator Proos said he commends the Department for it’s work reducing prison populations in the state, but prison budgets should keep reflect those changes.


“I think that’s where we’re working hard with the department to expect positive outcomes but to also expect that we’re going to spend our dollars wisely and not keep our facilities open at a time that the numbers show as many as 2-thousand fewer prisoners at the end of this calendar year.”

The bill has passed the state senate and is currently before the house.