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Michigan prison population hits 30-year low, leading to facility closure

(WNDU)
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 4:44 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan’s prison population has declined to below 35,000 for the first time in 30 years, which is leading to another facility closure in January.

The state’s prison population peaked at more than 51,500 in March 2007. The decline in inmate numbers comes as the recidivism rate -- or percentage of paroled inmates who end up back in prison -- dropped from 45% to 26.7% over the past 20 years.

As a result, the Michigan Department of Corrections is planning to close the Detroit Reentry Center in January. The shutdown will affect 220 employees, which include 129 uniformed corrections officers.

“The decision to close a facility is always hard, and I realize this will be a difficult time for the staff at DRC,” Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington said. “We understand and value the hard work and dedication the staff have shown, and it is our hope to find places for them within the department to continue that effort.”

The Detroit Reentry Center opened in 2012 in the former Ryan Correctional Facility, which closed earlier that year. The Reentry Center averaged about 500 inmates over the past three years, but Washington said the prison population is down to 70 now.

The facility houses inmates who require dialysis, which will be moved to the Woodland Center Correctional Facility. Many other inmates stayed in the Reentry Center to complete programming before their releases to parole, but those programs now are offered in other prisons.

The Corrections Department expects to save $12.3 million by closing the facility next year, which will be the 29th closure in 15 years. Washington said the department has saved more than $400 million in annual operating costs over that time.

The Reentry Center employees will be considered for bumping and transfers into other Corrections Department jobs around the state.

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