MCO IN-DEPTH: Senate budget recommendation calls for massive cuts

In what can only be described as a significant difference of opinion, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections has removed $41.6 million dollars from the Governor’s recommended corrections budget, while leaving the challenge of how to achieve those savings to the MDOC.

Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph), the subcommittee chairman, attributed the cuts to a declining prison population, which has fallen by nearly 1,600 inmates since February of 2016.

When asked how the $41.6 million could be realized, MDOC officials were left scratching their heads saying the numbers and methodology used by the committee simply didn’t add up and were not realistic.

Recall that in last year’s budget, this same Senate committee called for $46.9 million in savings and the closure of two prisons. However, the end result was the closure of just one facility, Pugsley.

Points of note for MCO members:

  • The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections’ proposal eliminates $4.3 million in one-time funding to train 177 corrections officers to meet projected attrition needs. This would worsen the officer shortage, as about 60 officers retire, promote, or resign every month. The number of corrections officers has been at a deficit for years. COs are being overworked, and more staff members are desperately needed.
  • Includes a provision and increases funding to $4,362,300 for transition costs to a future new facility. The Governor did not include this in his budget recommendation. In the press, both the private Baldwin facility and the closed Standish prison have been named as possible sites if the state were to move inmates to a different location. No plan to do so is currently on the table.
  • Reduces the contractual inflationary adjustment to Trinity Food Service by $1.6 million to reflect the population decrease. The Governor’s budget calls for an increase of $4 million for inflation and increased meal participation.

The stark contrast in approaches to the MDOC budget sets up a showdown between the Senate, House, and Governor. The outcome could have a lasting effect on the programs and initiatives the MDOC has been and is currently working on.

No one – not the Governor, House, or Senate – is calling for the closure of another state run correctional facility at this time, but rumors and conversations are still circulating. (See “Talk of a Closure Continues, Although the Budget Doesn’t Call for One,” 3/3/17.) MDOC Director Heidi Washington has said this is not the right time for a closure. MDOC supports the closure of individual housing units because it lends them flexibility, unlike a facility closure, which is costly to undo.

MCO is sharing this information because corrections officers have a right to know what conversations are being held in our statehouse and what could possibly be on the horizon.

As the budget process moves forward, MCO will continue to educate legislators on budget driven corrections, which has a dangerous and negative impact on staff, facility operations, and inmates.

Of course, we will keep members updated on any developments. For more information or to view the Senate recommendation and analysis, click here