Since we launched our letter writing campaign a few weeks ago, hundreds of you have sent letters to Director Heyns, Governor Snyder, and the members of the Civil Service Commission about the importance of the RUO Classification and the role it plays in the safety and security of our prison system. Some officers have personalized their letters, speaking to what they see inside. Your words speak loudly and we thank you for this look behind the walls. If you haven’t sent your letter, add your name to this chorus.
Mental health inmates along with youth inmates require consistency, with different people in housing units every day, it makes for a dangerous day with the unpredictable nature of these particular inmates, do not remove our RUO pay. –Officer/Macomb
I am a RUO at Pugsely Correctional in Kingsley every day we are the people that make the prisoners attend their classes, call outs, med lines and yes in some cases make sure they clean their rooms and themselves. Without the RUO the Prison doesn’t get its daily routines accomplished. We also do PERs, Shakedowns, and teach classes. All this sounds good but if we don’t do our job as officers and mentors to prisoners they become a product of the system and if you want a revolving door without RUO’s that is what you will get. I work in a prison and I see every day the role that this position plays in establishing and maintaining the safety and security of the institution and the stability it provides for everyone involved. - RUO/Pugsley
I am writing you concerning RUOS. Eliminating them would be a big mistake. I can’t imagine anyone working in a prison without RUOS. They run the prison. They keep everything moving. They keep everything running safely. They learn and understand prisoner behavior. They are a bargain at any price. Without them you’re asking for TROUBLE! Get smart save money elsewhere. –Retired Officer/Marquette
I am writing to urge you to retain the Resident Unit Officer positions in our prisons. I am a Corrections Officer with twenty three years experience, of which I worked twelve years as an RUO in Marquette Branch Prison’s level V general population and segregation housing units.
The RUOs run the prison. When the prisoners, RUMs, custody supervisors, or medical staff have a problem or issue they bring it to the RUOs. The COs who work in the housing units look to the RUOs to know the daily/weekly/monthly routine, how to handle medical emergencies, how to do the paperwork, which inmate gets what diet, and a thousand other things. The prison will run without the warden, but not without the RUOs. – Officer/Marquette
I am writing you to ask that you protect the RUO Classification in the Department of Corrections. I am a currently a CRR in a prison and I see every day the role that RUOs/CMUOs play in establishing and maintaining the safety and security of the institution and the stability it provides for everyone involved. There is nothing more important in the prison setting that CONSISTENCY! I have worked as an RUO during my career and know firsthand how important this classification is. STOP THE MADNESS NOW! MAINTAIN THE RUO CLASSIFICATION! – CRR/Woodland Correctional
There are plenty of my CO coworkers that say they wouldn’t want to be an RUO or work “housing” for any raise in pay because of the level of inmate contact that being an RUO involves.
Please do not eliminate the RUO classification. I am proud to be an RUO and deserve the extra pay I get for being one. –RUO/Brooks
I am writing you to ask that you protect the RUO Classification in the Department of Corrections. I am a CO at the Marquette Branch Prison with over 25 years of experience. I know that the RUO position is vital to the overall security of the prison. An RUO assigned to a cell block gives the inmate population a sense of stability, which is vital to the security of an institution. Corrections tends to be a reactive profession, RUO’s help us be proactive; they learn the behaviors of the inmates in his/her block, then they can convey information to the appropriate people so we can help prevent trouble before it happens.
This classification was created years ago because the Department was struggling to find officers willing to be “stuck” in the same unit and routine that brings with it additional stress and responsibilities. Plus with the possible elimination of ARUS and RUM positions, the eliminating of RUO’s will add more chaos and non stability in cell blocks. The lessons learned from the early 1980′s are still remembered by the older staff who are still around. Back then the security of the prisons was budget driven, which led to riots and inmates running the “asylums”. I realize the department needs to “lose weight”, but getting rid of the RUO position is one of the stupidest things the department can do. –Officer/Marquette
I would also like to add I work in a ASRP unit, inmates have special needs and do not do well with change. We who work in these programs work with inmates that are problems in GP and have spent most if not all of their prison time in seg. but somehow someway we get them to live, work, and get along with others in these units. I believe it is because the officers in these units want to work in these units to put in the extra time and energy that it takes to work with these inmates. Taking away RUO pay would take these officers out of the units. Officers who take the RUO are officers who have skills to work with inmates one on one every day we do a job other officers do not want to do. –RUO/St. Louis
I am currently working in Housing Unit E at Central Michigan Correctional Facility. When I am here in the unit things run smoothly. The inmates know what is expected and follow the rules. I know what inmates to watch out for and keep my eye on for thieving or other mischief. On the other days when a non regular works in the unit I hear the unit is very busy. Inmates from other units try to come in and cause trouble. The officers that work in here for temporary relief just don’t know the inmates. The inmates have a freedom of movement that if you don’t keep an eye on them things can go wrong in a hurry. Everyone has their triggers and when you have 2 officers dealing with 160 inmates there are a lot of triggers. You find your informants and your peacekeepers and try to use them as much as possible. Then you find your troublemakers and work on keeping them under control. You know when there is a family problem or notice changes to tattoos or gang affiliations. There are also the packups and cell shakedowns. They help you keep track of where the money is and who is doing the trading or the holding. The RUO’s that are doing their jobs are earning their wage differences. The RUO is needed to keep a lid on the institution and the inmates trying to run it. Thank you for your consideration and time reading this. –RUO/Central MI
I know all too well how demanding housing unit assignments are to the officers. I worked housing from 1986 until 1992 in two separate work locations. If I were not paid more than the CO when I interviewed and was reclassified to RUO, I never would have taken on those additional responsibilities, ever. Suicide watch, fights in the units with weapons, officer assaults, fear of being taken hostage in a cell, work load paperwork from the ARUS and RUS, additional rounds due to everything from inmate “snitch” kite information to medical emergencies; this assignment demands an employee dedicated to those additional issues that the CO does not deal with on a day-to-day basis, and without the incentive of additional monies, there really is no reason for the CO to want to become an RUO and work housing on a daily basis.
Please reconsider your intentions to remove the RUO classification for cost savings to the department. I believe the coalition of unions and the departments have worked very hard to identify cost savings in other areas where the safety of the prison population and staff would not be diminished. Thank you for your time in reading my letter. –RUO/Womens Huron Valley
I deleted the LETTER that was pre-written to tell you what it’s like to be an R.U.O. in a prison. I can tell you this, you couldn’t do it. I work with prisoners that are infected with a lot of diseases. That actually is the 2nd biggest challenge of an R.U.O. behind NOT GETTING HURT OR KILLED. DO NOT GET INFECTED by the prisoners. THIS IS EVERYDAY! Rubber gloves..HA HA! Every day I PRAY TO GOD that I do not take a disease home to my wife and son. I undress in the garage just to be safe. My Father used to do that after he came home from a crime scene. He’s a retired Detective Sergeant with the Michigan State Police. The main reason why YOU have to keep the R.U.O. status is because us R.U.O.s have the skills over the years with dealing with the prisoners on regular daily in-unit situations. Trust me, there are MANY situations that POP-UP in 8 hours. I’m a first shift (6am-2pm) R.U.O. and have been doing this job since 1989. I’m disease free, thank God because of my knowledge of in-unit situations. Everyone knows that MONEY decides everything. DON’T MAKE MONEY DECIDE IF THERE IS A HEPATITIS-C OR HIV outbreak in prison among unknowledgeable staff working cell blocks or housing units. Thank You for reading this. –RUO/Lakeland
I am a RUO at Central Michigan Correctional Facility and I see every day the role that this position plays in establishing and maintaining the safety and security of the institution and the stability it provides for everyone involved. It also should be noted that when things do occur, it is inevitably when non-regulars are in the units.
This point can / was driven home in two recent incidents, at this facility. These incidents almost led to the death of two inmates. One almost bled out through his carotid artery and the other has been in the hospital for over two weeks. Had the injury been any closer to his skull, most certainly he would be dead. As a female officer, I bring a calming effect and a sense of security to the unit. I have learned to deescalate inmates. As well as, having a report with top gang members. Who will pull aside members and work things out without violence. –RUO/Central MI
The consistent, regular assignment of RUO’s to a unit establishes a sense of stability. I happen to work in the dialysis unit at Ryan. I cannot express the importance enough of the RUO position in this type of housing unit. Having a regular officer saves prisoners lives sometimes. I know all of the diabetics, severe heart patients, and those who suffer from renal failure illnesses. I understand and work with awareness of their illness everyday that I step into that unit.
I fear that having rotating staff, or staff who do not know these things about these prisoners, could put their lives in jeopardy. Recently a prisoner assaulted a staff member in health care because he was going into a diabetic shock and became violent. This officer did not know that this inmate becomes violent. But I do. This prisoner is a renal failure patient and I have seen him with low sugar many times and know that he becomes very agitated. The RUO classification proves valuable in these types of instances. –RUO/Ryan
Working in a prison is not something that is for everyone. However, if you can enter your workplace each day knowing how each prisoner “usually” acts, then it is easier to deal with abnormal situations when they arise. So, it not only benefits the prisoner and his/her feelings of a routine day, it also benefits the officer when he/she is inside the same building day in and out knowing what is “routine behavior” from each prisoner on a daily basis. –Officer/Central MI
RUO’s are the single most important positions in a prison. They are most critical in keeping the peace and protecting staff and prisoners alike. Please do not make a horrible mistake. –Officer/Thumb
I’m all for saving money, just not at the cost of instability and safety of inmates & staff. Life in the prison is a community. It is up to all of us together, to make it as safe as possible. Not everything comes down to dollars. What is “right”, needs to be considered. Thank You for your time. –Officer/Bellamy Creek
I feel that eliminating RUO positions will be a bad decision. Who will be in charge of the unit on a day to day basis? Nobody will want to deal with inmates every day, the work will be put off on the least senior officer and some will have little or no time. What happens to the unit when people are off. Because I can see that it will be forced upon us to be in the units like a RUO but without pay, no one wants the job already, officers with hardly any time are getting these positions. It’s going to be a mess and we will have to once again step up and make due, but will gain no monetary or a simple thank you. These prisons aren’t a great place to work, I have been in the MDOC for 19 yrs and have never seen it this bad. I am happy for my job, but I want to come home to my children safe! Please help us all out and try to look at the MDOC through our eyes and give us a break. We have taken a lot of cuts, it’s time to throw us a bone and be proud of what we do and who we are, which is coaches, fireman, officials, Special Olympic volunteers to name a few. Look around your neighborhood and see who volunteers like we do. Have a Merry Christmas!! –Officer/Marquette
When you rent for a short time there is no ownership. With ownership comes pride. I remember my first car, my first home, and my first unit as a RUO. I live there also with the inmates and I need it safe, clean and taken care of because it’s mine too. –RUO/Bellamy Creek
If there is no difference in the classification of RUO and CO the housing units officers who work in the housing unit now will go work in another area of the prisons. There will be no consistency in the housing units since there will be different officers rotated through the housing units. The belief that officers will stay in the housing units if the RUO pay is eliminated is false. –Officer/Bellamy Creek
Instead of cutting the people with day to day direct inmate contact why don’t you cut your administration costs? Why does a prison need a warden and a deputy warden the deputy warden can report directly to a regional administrator, elimination the warden position would save over 10 million per year in salary alone. –Officer/Ryan
I am currently a C/O at Carson City Correctional Facility. I have been with the state almost 23 years, and I was an RUO for ten years up at the OAKS in Manistee. As an RUO, you learn the tendencies of prisoners. You know when something isn’t right, you have prisoners who trust you more since they see you every day. I believe taking away the RUO classification for the sake of money would be a huge mistake. If the RUO classification is taken away, you may not have the regular unit officers in the units on a daily basis like we have now. This could lead to many problems, including increased assaults on staff and prisoners due to the inconsistencies. I ask you to consider this when the decision is made whether to eliminate the RUO classification. Thank you all very much for your time. –Officer/ Carson City
I cannot tell you the number of times that I have returned from my RDO’s to have inmates approach me and talk about how out of control the units seem to be when there are non-regular staff running the units. The inmates behave so much better when there is consistency within the unit. They know what to expect and they are less likely to act in a negative manner when there is consistency. We (RUO’S) learn what is normal prisoner behavior and what is not because we are around it day in and day out. We also know which inmates house in our units and which do not, therefore there is less chance of them entering units in which they do not house. I truly believe that if they remove the RUO positions there will be a decline in the safety of the units for staff and inmates alike. There will be people placed in positions that are disgruntled and are only there to collect a paycheck and not concerned with the daily running of the units. I pray that you take this all into consideration when making your final decision. –RUO/Bellamy Creek
I am a C/O and I on occasion do work inside the housing units. The RUO’s who work there on a daily basis run the units very well.
I have worked in some units where there were NO REGULARS; the unit does NOT run as smooth as it should. The inmates won’t do their sanctions. They get away with receiving items they should NOT be getting because the staff doesn’t know they way the unit is run on a daily basis. –Officer/Saginaw
I am no longer an RUO as I have moved onto another position with the state but even going back into the housing unit setting years later my RUO instincts kicked in and I stopped several offenses from happening that day. Had I never worked inside I may not have known what to watch for or expect from the prisoners. It was the years of being in a housing unit that made my senses keen to the everyday behaviors of the prisoners. By taking away the RUO designation you are hurting the continuity of the facility as a whole. –Officer/Brooks
I grew up in a rural area and I can make an analogy from that background. Milk cows always go to the same stanchion. If you try to put them in a different stanchion they will resist and buck. People are much the same, especially when they are confined in a high-stress environment like a prison. If you arbitrarily change their routine, they will eventually buck. At the very least it increases the stress level for both staff and prisoners, which will ultimately lead to increased medical costs. This could well be a case of mistaking price for cost. The higher wages are a price, but the long-term effects will be the increased cost of more staff and prisoners getting hurt and increased medical expenses from increased stress.
I do not envy your position of responsibility and the need to cut costs so the State can have a realistic budget. Please consider that this cut in “price” may well not lead to reduced “costs” in the long-run. –Officer/Handlon MTU
It is just like local police, if you have a different cop in your neighborhood every day a lot of things are going to be missed and that could end up being dangerous for staff and prisoners. –Officer/Gus Harrison
I am a RUO in a prison and I see every day the role that this position plays in establishing and maintaining the safety and security of the institution and the stability it provides for everyone involved. Working in a housing unit on a daily basis I get to know how each prisoner walks, their voice, even when they are looking to be left alone. Without this kind of contact you will see increase in problems and more staff injuries.
Prisoners are always asking for the regular unit officers for information. With a revolving door of officers you will see an increase of problems. –RUO/Baraga
I have to stress the importance of having ‘regulars’ in the units. Most times that I have discovered drugs, alcohol, and weapons have been the result of watching, noting, and researching the behaviors of prisoners over a period of time of working regularly in the unit. The RUO position fosters the idea of ‘ownership’ of a housing unit-I want the unit I work in to be safe, secure, and I want the prisoners in the unit to know I care about where I am assigned. –RUO/Sagniaw
I am writing in regards to the current job which I hold in the Department of Corrections, a Resident Unit Officer.
I hired in the department in 1994 and became an RUO in approximately 1998 and have been one since. The job of full time housing officer brought about unique, challenging and demanding aspects of the job I had not realized existed prior to being in a unit every day.
The way in which you become in tune to the happenings within your unit provides for a level of doing the job that greatly enhances the safety and quality of service that is provided.
The daily routine of a housing unit allows an officer to recognize the smallest of changes in the unit that in so many cases has led to intervention at points that incidents are completely eliminated.
Personal experiences are many. A few that come to mind. A prisoner who had little contact with staff was even more withdrawn than the simple nod of the head he usually provided. The day before he had received a letter in the mail which was also slightly out of the ordinary. I thought the two may have something to do with one another. I made a mental note that we should keep an extra eye on the prisoner today and shared that with my partners who agreed with the assessment. At approximately 1900 hrs that evening my partner made an extra effort to check on the prisoner and found him hanging in his cell. We we’re able to get him down and save his life.
That is a instance that sticks with me as making a difference in what we do. Although many instances are stopped even before that type of action is taken by a prisoner. The alertness and senses you develop as an RUO to your particular unit changes the course of many incidents to positive and safer situations.
I know that stress in the housing units is higher than in assignments where you have minimal if any inmate contact I have worked those jobs.
We have to deal with the issues of extortion, assaults physical and sexual, money and property issues, cleaning the units, proper record keeping (segregation standards),group counseling, and many many others. This is our job and I try to do my best each day.
The RUO is unique in its role in the facilities and the elimination of it will take away yet another tool that enhances the safety of our institutions. Over the past few years we have lost many tools that have lessened our ability to maintain security at past levels in the facilities.
The results are like many changes you won’t see the full effect for several years, although if you look at the change in prisoners attitudes it is happening now. Evident by the amount of warning shots being fired across the state even though most gun towers have been eliminated is surpassing totals of an entire decade.
I have worked in 5 facilities and have personal experience in all custody levels minus level 6 which no longer exists (one of the eliminated tools).
The job of an RUO is vastly different than a custody officer when done on a daily basis and the tools we acquire are put to use. This is true at all levels. The proper housing shakedowns routinely produce the type of information that lead to the uncovering of many potential larger scale plans in the works by the population.
To do harm to staff, prisoners, crimes on the outside, introduction of contraband (drugs) to the inside, escape plans and paraphernalia, weapons and just about anything you can think of.
The answer that I am sure is being considered is that we will still assign people to the regular units.
Just being somewhere everyday will not get the results that individuals produce who have chosen the extra work and the duties of the RUO, who have an ability to do well in that setting and the responsibility to do more due to the title they hold.
Myself I would try to keep the standard the Department created in the RUO moving forward. Although the most likely scenario is many of the positive things brought about by the RUO classification will begin to disappear at a quick rate.
RUO will be able to bid or request the less demanding jobs currently prohibited by our responsibility to housing. We will be able to request third shift and obtain some less stressful assignments, The motivation to do a quality job in housing will be gone for those that remain as we begin to lose the talent that was in the units too less demanding jobs.
One sad reality in corrections is that a certain percentage of staff carry a larger load of the work due to their ethics and morals. Many are housing officers the ones who by a large percentage create safer environments for those who choose to do less either in custody or housing assignments.
The difference between a quality shakedown that an experienced housing officer can do in a reasonable amount of time will disappear. Most won’t have the tools in their hypothetical toolbox to run the housing units as currently done. Incentive will be gone for those who choose to work harder and provide safety at today’s levels in our housing units.
The true losers will be the prisoners who will have a less productive environment to change their ways. This will in the end in some way effect the public safety as we return less prepared prisoners and certainly more victimized individuals to the streets.
Many could care less about the victimization of prisoners and the environments that they must do their time in. Saving money now may not always save money later. Michigan Department of Corrections is a national leader in the way we do business. It certainly needs to have some cost cutting measures to reign in the amount we spend.
Make no mistake about it the RUO saves money in many ways. The amount of litigation, ambulance runs, hospitalizations, worker compensation cases are all greatly reduced by the observant, trained, motivated and diligent RUO. I believe we are a cost saving measure already. Thank You. –RUO/Handlon MTU
I am writing you to ask that you protect the RUO Classification in the Department of Corrections. I have worked as a housing officer for over 25 years. I hired in as a Corrections Medical Aide in 1986, working the Acute Care psychiatric unit at Riverside Facility. Since then I have worked every facet of correctional housing, from RTP, segregation unit, dorm housing, and single cell units.
I have taken great pride and satisfaction in the role I play in providing a stable and secure environment for housing prisoners. I have worked with hundreds of other housing officers over the years, and I feel this attitude is consistent among them. This consistency of attitude is vital in maintaining the necessary morale that is needed in the day to day running of an increasingly difficult assignment. –RUO/MI Reformatory
I am writing you to ask that you not eliminate the MDOC RUO Classification. I am a correctional Custody Officer and I see every day the role that this position plays in establishing and maintaining the safety and security of the institution and the stability it provides for everyone involved. The residential unit (housing unit/cell block) is the core unit that requires the most attention and therefore, the most work, within all prisons. All other departments and functions within a prison support the residential unit. Residential Unit Officers (RUOs) play a vital role in maintaining a finger on the pulse of an active and potentially volatile cell block. By having daily up close and personal contact with these convicted felons, RUOs become more informed and up to date on the goings on and problems facing the prisoners as well as staff, in a dangerous environment. By their being well informed and vigilant, RUOs are able to intervene quickly to prevent or stop a dangerous situation, as well as to communicate any information, concerning rising problems, more quickly to supervision and administration; along with possible causes and solutions to handle these sensitive and potentially dangerous situations. Because of their constant daily contact, RUOs make prisons run smoother with the ability to avoid many incidents. That to me spells a much safer working environment for staff as well as a safer living environment for those stressed out, disgruntled, angry, mentally challenged, frightened, and generally dangerous individuals who must live there. An RUOs role is vital. By eliminating RUOs you are increasing the danger and incident rate immensely. It will cost us more in lives and money. –Officer/Egeler
I am writing you to ask that you protect the RUO (Resident Unit Officer) Classification in the Department of Corrections. I am a recently retired Michigan Correction Officer, employed for 24 years. Every day I was aware of the stability RUOs provided for everyone involved. As a corrections officer, I disliked having to work housing units because, as a “fill in the blank,” I was often regularly assigned to different housing units. It was frustrating because in a medium security prison we had “open” dorm settings and, when I did not know prisoners by sight, I had no idea if any one particular prisoner belonged in the unit itself, or even on that “side” of the unit. I didn’t know where everyday supplies were kept or how they were arranged and had to take time to look for everything. Thus, prisoners might have more easily been able to “get away with things” that they would not have been able to do with a regular, unit officer. For example, on December 8th, 2011 an RUO at the Brooks Correctional Facility astutely noticed an inmate walking with an abnormal gait and asked that he be strip searched. Officers found a 13 inch shank (hand made weapon) down the inside of the inmate’s right leg. This RUO recognized that the gait of this inmate was different than normal and, as a result, a deadly weapon was removed from the institution.
With the RUO Classification under the threat of elimination, these types of “catches” probably will not be made. Eliminating the RUO classification will make the prisons less safe and secure. It will allow inmates the opportunity to take advantage of a breach in security that should not be provided to them.
Please, do not be “penny wise, pound foolish.” Maintain and support the RUO classification in the Michigan DOC. –Retired Officer/Lakeland
On December 8th, an RUO at the Brooks Correctional Facility astutely noticed an inmate walking with an abnormal gait and asked that he be strip searched. Officers found a 13” shank down the inside of the inmate’s right leg.
Because RUO’s are assigned routinely to housing units, they get to know the individual inmates, their behaviors, their quirks. This RUO recognized that the gait of this inmate was different than normal and for this a deadly weapon was removed from the institution. With the RUO Classification under the threat of elimination, these type of catches might not be noticed by an officer who hasn’t lived in the housing unit with the inmates day in and day out. –Officer/Brooks
I’ve been an RUO for 8 and a half years and have been told many times by prisoners that they do not like change in the units. They do not like having non regulars in the unit, due to they do not know what is going on. I have had to talk to many prisoners to calm them down due to officers that don’t deal with them day to day in the unit. RUO’s stop things that could turn ugly by knowing the prisoners in the housing units and by dealing with them everyday. I think by getting rid of RUO’s, it would be causing a lot more problems in all the housing units. We already have enough !!!!! Thank You For Your Time. –RUO/Marquette
While the above [draft letter] may appear to be a boiler plate statement, I personally agree with every word and would like to add a little to it.
There is an concerted effort to either eliminate or privatize positions within the MDOC in the claims of saving money, but WILL result in a serious degradation of security within Correctional Facilities, discourage DEDICATED, PROFESSIONAL, PUBLIC EMPLOYEES from continuing their service to the people of the State of Michigan, because what the implication is that they are over-paid and unappreciated.
As I have relayed in my previous communications, privatizing in Corrections, in the long run, is fiscally irresponsible as it results in a degradation of services to a very vulnerable population. –Officer/Woodland
RUO’s are generally older more experienced officers with a very clear understanding of the dynamics of prison. And understanding which can take years of experience to cultivate. When you work in a housing unit every day, you have the ability to observe behavior- you begin to see patterns. You begin to know who each prisoner is and what makes them “tick” I will provide a small example– I recently observed a younger prisoner who had a lot of behavioral issues. Knowing a little about this prisoner I knew that he had a young son that he cared for deeply and wanted to remain a part of his life. After learning that he had received a large amount of tickets and associated sanctions which he did not want to do thusly receiving more misconducts. I pulled the prisoner aside with a supervisor and asked him a couple of simple questions- Did he want to be a part of his sons life when he went to kindergarten or when he graduated high school. His response was that he wanted to be a part of his son’s life when he went to kindergarten. This prisoner sentence was 2 years to 18 years. It was explained to him that more misconducts would lead to being in prison more years and good behavior could mean he would do less- he was told the choice was his get caught up in the day to day of prison or focus on getting back to his family. I can say that he made an almost overnight transformation- did his sanctions got off sanctions, focused on getting his GED and became the quiet prisoner in the unit. This sounds like simple mentoring but it requires an officer who is older, more experienced, one who has seen the long term effects of what prison can do to a person.
Young officers have their place in prison as do older officers. Young officers make up for their lack of knowledge with energy and a willingness to learn. Older experienced officers can run housing units often a hundred prisoners or more because of what they know and the stability they bring with them- A lack of stability makes prison dangerous- Workers Comp cases go up, employee turnover will escalate, serious assaults and even deaths among prisoners rise- and length of incarceration increase . Litigation will increase without stability that RUO’s bring to prison. –RUO/Gus Harrison
I joined the department a few years ago. Before that I spent 20+ years in the US Army. While at the C.O. academy it was impressed upon me that our department MDOC is one of the best in the nation. When I started working at the Oaks it became apparent that the quality of people working for the dept is very high. It was also apparent that the depth of experience and quality of training is why. You get what you pay for. Thank you for your time. –Officer/Oaks
Please visit a facility and judge for yourself. The prison population has become the most violent and dangerous I have seen in 23 years. With the closing of level 5′s, the mental facilities and the inattention to the STG problems in the prisons a bigger problem is going to occur. –Officer/Saginaw
Our M.D.O.C. on line In-Service training module that we are required to read and be tested on Page 49 states.
“It is important that staff know and understand the habits of the offenders in their housing units, this will help in identifying suicidal behaviors and risks.
Officers in the housing units have the most contact with offenders and can be an important source of information.
Staff may see some of the signs and symptoms of potential suicidal behavior, but not recognize them as such, due to being too busy, overworked, afraid of overreacting, or because they are denying the likelihood of suicide.”
The point of having good R.U.O.’s is an obvious enough safety issue to put in our required training.
A revolving door of officers is unsettling and can inadvertently cause stress amongst the population… which I’m sure you understand is not desirable in a prison setting.
This classification was created years ago because the Department was struggling to find officers willing to be “stuck” in the same unit and routine that brings with it additional stress and responsibilities. And it has since proven to be a valuable if not critical role in the smooth operation of our state prisons. –Officer/Handlon MTU
As a former CO I have seen the difference in how prisoners act when they are in the housing units, or out on the yard. I am a RUO in a prison and I see every day the role that this position plays in establishing and maintaining the safety and security of the institution and the stability it provides for everyone involved. Having the instability of CO/RUO’s is like having a different substitute teacher in a classroom everyday! As a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army I can also testify to the fact of having structure and stability. For a “Unit” to function at its best there has to be command structure and a sense of leadership, a family if you will. RUO’s play a key role in this function. For the safety and security of the people of Michigan as well as my fellow staff, please consider these key issues. –RUO/Handlon MTU
I feel….in fact I know with my experience if you go through with the elimination of the RUO Classification there will be grave consequences across the board. I have always been told that when Corrections becomes about money…..is when it becomes DANGEROUS!! The consequences and what I mean by consequences is unsettled inmates, rising stress levels between inmates, and staff alike, the inconsistency of irregular staff in housing units, and much more that will be seen over time. These consequences over time will cause a chain reaction and eventually someone is going to get hurt. I please ask that you re-consider the elimination of the RUO Classification as it is a very crucial and important role in the MDOC and at every correctional facility in the state to maintain safety and security. –Officer/Central MI
I personally work as an RUO for 13 years have had inmates rush up and tell me they were glad I was back from a vacation or a day or 2 off, so the unit could run smooth again. You are messing with the stability of the system behind the walls. We know the STGs, the “bugs”, the inmates that have been locked down for years and the inmates that you want in you MPRI programs, the ones that might make it, not the ones that slip through the cracks. Making decisions from behind a desk or because of your financial problems on the backs of these RUO’S IS NOT A GOOD THING, it will cause officers to get hurt or worse. These are not boy scouts we are dealing with, wake UP!!! –RUO/Baraga
Along with this I would like to note that RUO’s do the payroll for the workers within the units. They also, teach classes as needed by the state. I have personally thought “Thinking Matters,” and “Cage your Rage” classes. My partner has taught “Phase 1 Substance Abuse classes”. This losing RUO’s will lose more than just a position; it will lose teachers as well. –RUO/Cooper St.
With the continued cycle of prison closings, the Gang activity and strong arming of the elderly, the weak and mentally ill is on an alarming rise. Without the RUO’s who deal with this on a daily basis to help keep things in check and identify new threats. You’re going to throw the whole system out of control.
The decisions you make in Lansing to save money could cost everyone, in more than one way. It could cause Riots and much more, the lives of several Officers. So please help everyone and keep the RUO’s as a critical tool in the department of corrections. –Officer/Gus Harrison
I would urge you to consider the “real” effect of eliminating such a position under the guise of saving dollars. The after effects it brings with it can cost many times what you are looking to save. –Officer/Brooks
Housing is not for all COs, as we have to communicate a lot more w/Prisoners than Custody COs, most critical incidents occur when there are non regular staff in the units. The D O C has been cut to the bone all during the Granholm years w/all the Prison closings, this has made a difficult job even more difficult as there are severely limited places to put unmanageable prisoners. Prisoner fights/assaults on staff are up higher now than any time during the 23 yrs I have done this. Just last week at MRF I was involved in restraining a prisoner that assaulted one of my ARUS counselors, and I hope you don’t cut their pay either. I think the D O C has endured enough cuts, we are going to lose control of the prisons if we close or cut more. Thank you for your consideration. –RUO/Macomb
Working in a housing unit can be very frustrating some days. I work in a housing unit that houses 160 inmates, and most days it is like working in a day care that holds 200 pound kids. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not having to tell inmates that they can’t do that, or having to go get back someone’s property that was stolen. There is always something going on in a housing unit.
I was a E-9 for over seven years before I decided to take the RUO (E-10) position, and I can personally say that there is a lot more responsibility being an RUO. I have had my own housing unit for over three years now and when I take a day off or it is my RDO’s and there is “non regulars” working that when things happen in my unit. It is just like when school kids have a substitute teacher. When I come back to work I will have inmates telling that I can’t take days off because the unit falls apart, and I usually spend much of that first day back mending fences.
I am sorry that you feel you need to keep cutting the wages of the people trying to make a living. I think that instead of punishing the people that give up so much in their lives to do a thankless job and maybe you can take a look at how some agencies spend money so recklessly. I see a lot of ways in the department of corrections that money can be saved, but no one cares what a simple corrections officer thinks. For example 90 percent of the outside contracting the DOC does is work that could be done by convicts. Instead of paying over 100 dollars a yard for concrete have the inmate mix it and pour it themselves. Any kind of building could be done by inmates rather than paying outrageous amount to outside contractors. Paying 55 dollars for one gallon of paint is crazy when the state says they have no money and need to cut wages. There are many more things that money is wasted on, but I don’t feel like typing them out and you probably don’t care to read about them.
I hope that maybe someday the people that work hard and take pride in their work will get that respect that is so often over looked.
Thanks for your time and I hope this wasn’t a waste of mine. –RUO/Central MI
We do understand that you are looking at the bottom line cost. At what cost is it worth for the less than ($2.00) two dollars an hour, a life, or a major injury to an officer. There have been some major cuts happening and the atmosphere is uneasy. Please do not create a disaster because there needs to be more cuts in the budget. Take my clothing allowance not the RUO position!
Again, I am not a Residential Unit Officer, the wage reduction would not affect me, the lack of stability and having someone working, on a regular basis, in that housing unit, that will affect me.
The idea of having those officers working in the units on a regular get to know how the prisoners’ behavior is…priceless. It is reassuring to having someone working in the housing units on a regular basis. Here, when they are in the housing unit every day, they get to see and know as to what that prisoner is about. The officer gets to be familiar with the behavior, to what kind of behaviors and reactions to expect. To know that in a crisis, that regular officer could be capable of deescalating a potential dangerous and sometimes, deadly situation, to bring it down to a manageable one. This could include talking a prisoner to get them to calm down. This could keep that prisoner from doing something to harm themselves or someone else or to destroy state property.
As for the prisoner, having regular staff in the housing unit it creates stability. So then they can work on completing their time, without extra stress of not knowing what the officer is all about. Or if they are stressed out, they can rely on a common face (the regular unit officer) to get them the help they need or the ear to listen. Thus, the prisoner knows what to expect from the consistency of regular officers and can maintain their behavior a bit more.
If the safety of an officer is not a part of the formula, then think of the money that will be spent on the destruction and mayhem that the prisoners could create from frustrations of inconsistency.
Another uncomfortable thought to have is, think of how it would be if you have to make that call to a family member of the officer who got hurt or killed. To know that because the legislature and the Governor were looking at cutting money, to bring the budget down, that staffing was shortened, inconsistency and chaos were created and a life was the cost or a major injury happened. All because the prisoners become extremely frustrated with too many changes and too much inconsistency. So can you please see that there are very dangerous consequences to creating inconsistency with these prisoners.
Please look somewhere else for a budget cut, we have cut enough, and are paying more, do we need blood as a payment? -CO/Baraga
I work hard at my job and no one wants to work in a unit cause of all the problems. You sit behind a desk saying “It’s all about money”. If that is true, then let’s see you people work 365 days with rotating days off. Then only 5 people out of 41 people can be off. I took this job to support my family and the public is served well. –RUO/Brooks
It’s a necessary position to maintain stability in a non-stable environment. Just like a mom and dad at home, you need steady staff to tell Little Johnny he has a chance to go home. Non steady equals manipulation and turmoil. And worse yet, assault, death and escape! –Officer/Baraga
I am not asking you to do our job, this is why you hired us. I am not gonna sit here and judge you on your job or the political views that you believe in. I am just asking you for one minute to forget about money and political views and think about the safety of officers inside our state prisons. We need RUO’s for safety, please just take our word for it. If you eliminate RUO’s there will be more fights, stabbings and assaults. Officers and even prisoners will be hurt or even killed. More lawsuits will be filed. This is just the truth, please just believe us! –Officer/Oaks
I am a Resident Unit Officer employed at Marquette Branch Prison. I am nearing the end of my 22nd year of working for the MDOC. I spent 6 years as an E-9 Officer and 16 years as a Resident Unit Officer. I trained at a multi-level facility. I worked at Alger Max. When it was a level 5 facility and at MBP in their level 5 & level 1 areas. I have been a swing RUO, Regular Unit RUO and held Bid assignments as an RUO. It has allowed me the experience and knowledge of my job on many levels.
I have the added advantage of being related to Myron Basal. Myron retired in December of 1981, as a Captain with 25 years of service, after the riots that occurred in the fall of that year. In speaking with him I am able to find valuable knowledge through his past experience. He told me that the RUO position was created in the mid 1970’s. It was created to give stability to the units and allow staff to gain better knowledge of the inmate population. Staff were held responsible for daily activities and information gathering. It created a cleaner and safer working environment for staff and prisoners.
Prisoners need structure and consistent direction from staff to give them the sense of security within this prison environment. By removing the RUO Classification and rotating staff on a 90 day rotation, it does not give staff and prisoners the time needed to establish routines and secure environments. (If all staff are classified and paid the same, resentment may become a problem if staff are not rotated equally between the given assignments.) It would be the same if you were to rotate teachers throughout classrooms on a 90 day rotation. The structure of teaching and the student/teacher relationship would suffer greatly. In the case of prison, this could be the difference between life and death.
When I worked as a Level 5 officer, I personally trained in Chicago, on my own time, to become a gang expert. This allowed me to better identify gang activity. By working daily in the housing units I was able to identify members, graffiti, ranking, affiliations, nicknames and conflicts. This information can only be gathered over time and constant observation of behavior within the housing units.
In my current assignment, I am a RUO of a Level 1 unit that currently houses mostly CSC prisoners. This presents it’s owns challenges when placing prisoners together in cells. As an example, I am careful to place a prisoner who is 18, fresh from RGC, in with a prisoner who is not an aggressive prisoner and somewhere near the office where he can be watch for the first few months he is here. If a prisoner is an OPT prisoner he is placed in with another prisoner who can handle the situation. This requires us to know the 190 prisoners housed in this unit. And, due to the fact that I have 65 prisoners that require lower bunk details in a 95 bed unit, my placement of prisoners is even more critical.
Each building at this institution has its own unique layouts. The building I currently work in requires its vents to be vacuumed monthly to not create a fire hazard. Segregation units have sprinkler shut off and plugs that have procedures when broke by prisoners. It’s important to know the physical plant of your building to know if there are any pieces missing (I.e. door closures, etc.) that can be made into weapons. This is noticed by staff who work in a unit on a daily basis.
I am aware that you are looking for money saving ideas and that the state needs to cut as many costs as necessary. Below, I will suggest something that I think will help with this aspect. But before I do, I ask you to look back to the past for a moment. After the 1981 riots occurred, there were studies done to find out what brought us to the point of riots. They found that over-crowding, understaffing and the food were the 3 main reasons contributing to the riots. As your decisions are made, I ask that you remember the past to avoid problems in the future. In 1981, my father-in-law went into the prison, guarding a fire truck with a squad of shot guns, to put out the fires that had been started. It’s something he will never forget.
In talking with my fellow co-workers, we have a suggestion that may help save money. The OMNI system that tracks prisoner movement is entered into the computers. Staff now have access throughout the prison to computer. Each day the callouts are printed for staff and prisoners. This could easily be looked up on the computer instead of printed. Prisoners who have jobs, med lines and school get them same callout everyday to report at the same time. This could be printed once and the callout held by the prisoner. The only callouts that would then need to be printed are daily callouts (I.e. doctor, dentist, etc.) For my institution, we currently print approximately 1800 pages a day. This would be reduced to approximately 360 pages a day. This would save printing approximately over 500,000 pages a year.
While making your decision about the Resident Unit Officer positions at the prisons, I ask that you consider my words above. I thank you for your time. –RUO/Marquette
You have no idea how important a RUO is in the housing unit as far as watching a prisoners behavior, like anger or depression even health conditions. –Officer/Pugsley
Although the above paragraphs [draft letter] may seem generic, they couldn’t be any closer to the truth. I’ve been an RUO for 12 years and understand what it takes to have a unit of 80/120/or 160 run like a clock. It’s having well trained individuals with the want to work the same unit day after day. Learning what makes the unit tick as every unit IS different. Without the RUO classification I can assure you that the units as well as the yard will be faced with issues that will not only change an officers/prisoners day but will change the rest of his/her life. –RUO/Central MI
I have been with Department of Corrections for now over 3.5 yrs and to see so many changes has a strong effective growth with the department. I became an RUO in November 2010 and to learn so much being a housing unit officer has given more light on the inmates. To take away this classification would be wrong, as most Corrections Officers that work on the outside do not get the insight on what we as Resident Unit Officers go through. Yes, the pay is worth the time we do and get out of the day in the housing unit.
I have been through transition changes through the military, giving this opportunity to take this classification will damage the department even more than I have ever seen since I been here. The changes I have been through have its ups and downs, but to this effect we need our RUO’s that make a difference. As for me I do make a DIFFERENCE with the inmates, I am the EAR EYES COUNSELING that they need. I do look forward to make a difference as I complete my MBA next year. –RUO/Bellamy Creek
The RUO also sees the prisoners on a daily basis and can tell when a prisoner is depressed and can intervene and hopefully stop a possible suicide. –Officer/Egeler
I’ll tell you why we need RUO’s, nobody wants to work the cell blocks. Even now, it is difficult to get people to volunteer to take the promotion to RUO. Currently, at ECF we have over twenty RUO vacancies that have gone unfilled for years, even though the position pays well over a dollar more per hour than a regular C/O.
RUO’s have to deal with inmates constantly and monitor their behavior. They work right in the cell blocks with the inmates which increases the risk of RUO’s coming down with TB, Hepatitis, AID’s, and other contagious diseases.
RUO’s in our segregation units, too often get assaulted, spit on, have urine or feces thrown on them, and have to deal with the most unruly of all our inmates. You just can’t get enough officers to volunteer to do this job for only a buck and some change more an hour.
Most of the fights, stabbings, or slashings happen inside or just outside of the cell blocks. This is another reason that RUO’s deserve the small amount of extra pay they receive. –Officer/Oaks
I can also tell you the name of all 160 inmates in my unit when I see them. I know where they lock and can identify them on camera. –RUO/Gus Harrison
I am writing in regards to the potential elimination of my job classification. I am working on year 25 in the department and the vast majority of those spent as a Resident Unit Officer at The Richard Handlon Facility.
The situations I have been involved with in the facility are too many to count. The days I went home thankful I made it out in one piece we’re some of the most terrifying days of my life.
I work in a housing unit with two other RUO’s which houses 240 prisoners. The odds are 80 to 1 and all I am armed with is a pen and my experiences.
Housing units are where staff have non-stop contact with prisoners. We are first line counselors, security, health care, sanitation and any other thing that goes on in a small community.
The best resource that I have to keep prisoners and staff safe is my ability to judge their daily behaviors and routines in their living environment. It may be easy to say that anyone can do that. Partially true any person can be in there yet not everyone can make the difference that many RUO’s do as they have chosen this classification many times based on their skill to perform in these units.
The personal choice is why RUO’s in Michigan are beneficial to the department in areas of security, and cost containment. When you can observe a prisoner who has a history of self mutilation and see they are struggling, intervention at the RUO level saves countless dollars in medical and additional staff costs.
Every time observant RUO’S prevent volatile situations from happening there’s no risk of staff injury and workmen comp claims.
The comparison to other states maybe one reason the elimination of my job maybe occurring. I say this isn’t apples to apples comparison. The state that Director Heyns visited was Indiana. Outside of Indianapolis the urban areas are not as numerous and diversified as Michigan’s
The gang problems we have are because of strong gang presences in so many urban areas Detroit, Pontiac, Battle Creek, Lansing, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor, Ypsilanti, and this list almost never quits.
This creates hostilities between prisoners based on no other reason than the urban area they come from. When you recognize these things in units you have a better potential to put of trouble and RUO’s do this almost daily.
You can place anyone in these housing units but many will never be as effective as the RUO’s because it’s our responsibility to deal with all the intricacies that arise in the units. We take pride in the jobs we do and the difference we make in the Department. The elimination of RUO will be another tool that will be removed from the department that can truly have only negative impact within the walls. Thank You. –RUO/Handlon MTU
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