Department of Corrections raises safety concerns over possible $66 million budget cut

(WLNS) – The Michigan Senate has passed a proposal to cut $66 million from the current $2 billion budget the state gives to the Department of Corrections.

The Senate claims there are enough open beds and room to cut in the budget, but according to DOC Spokesman Chris Gautz, the numbers used in graphs are skewed and don’t represent the actual need, and the harm a cut would have on state prisons and people.

“It would create dangerous situations across the state,” Gautz explained.

The cut is a decision Gautz said would negatively and directly impact officers who already cover the hundreds of vacancies in prisons across the state.

“People get tired, that’s when mistakes happen, that’s when escapes could happen.”

In Jackson, staffing at the prison is already in need of 79 corrections officers, meaning more overtime for current employees.

Jackson Corrections Facility Warden Jeremy Bush says, a cut would mean an increase to more than 130 job vacancies.

“Our corrections officers are going to be asked to do more with less.”

Senators in favor of the bill say, the money could go to other uses.

“It’s a huge amount of money that could be going to schools or roads or some other important things in this state,” Republican Senator Rick Jones of Grand Ledge said.

Gautz says, not only does the cut mean safety concerns, but also puts at risk programs that help prisoners stay out of prison once they are released.

“It does away with a whole host of programs that we’re using currently that actually work to further reduce the prison population to provide them with an education, to provide them with job skills so that when they get out, they don’t come back.”

Gautz adds, the cut would end up doing the opposite of what the Senate and the DOC hope to accomplish.

“Our goal is to actually reduce our budget so that we can have that money go somewhere else.”

The Michigan Department of Corrections testified the Senate before their vote, and will testify again in front of the House.

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