State Rep. Thomas Albert, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, today said his budget recommendations reduce taxpayer dollars spent on the state prison system while making investments to improve work conditions and staffing shortfalls for corrections officers.
Albert, of Lowell, said the subcommittee’s budget recommendations include a 1.8 percent reduction in general fund tax dollars, which amounts to $35.3 million.
“I combed through the budget line-by-line looking for areas where we could reduce spending and deliver better value for Michigan taxpayers,” Albert said. “My focus was on making responsible reductions without hurting any of the hardworking people who are employed in our prisons, and I can confidently say this plan hits the mark.”
The budget includes $1 million to fund a post-traumatic stress and wellness program to help corrections employees deal with the mental health challenges of working in a prison. Recent studies have shown high rates of PTSD and suicide among prison workers.
“Prison is a high-stress work environment,” Albert said. “Every day, corrections officers need to manage the most dangerous segment of our society. We must focus our attention on ways to improve the work environment and offer support for officers when needed.”
The budget also includes:
- $16.9 million for the selection and training of new corrections officers. The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) projects an annual turnover of roughly 660 corrections officers to retirement and attrition.
- $400,000 for firearms training and a directive that any officer who would like to be requalified for use of a handgun will be able to do so. This will generate a greater pool of officers with weapons permits for transporting prisoners and help reduce mandatory overtime.
- $100,000 to conduct a study analyzing potential locations for a corrections academy to train new officers. The Riverside Correctional Facility is one of three locations that needs to be analyzed. The department currently rents hotel space or rents space from the State Police to train recruits.
- $750,000 for demolition of the former Deerfield Correctional Facility in Ionia.
- A requirement for the department to issue a report to the Legislature detailing its strategies for employee recruitment and retention, along with relevant data.
Albert noted that employee shortages result in mandatory overtime, which is tough on employees and their families.
“Our prisons must be fully staffed at all times to protect the public and the people who work there,” Albert said. “Keeping the right staffing levels ensures that our prison facilities are operating efficiently, prevents overtime costs from skyrocketing and provides a better work/life balance for employees.”
The proposal, House Bill 4231, now advances to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration.