MCO Gains Ground on Important Budget Items While Legislature Calls For Yet Another Prison Closing

By Jeremy Tripp
Director, Government & Political Affairs

For the past few months, MCO has reported about the ongoing debate in Lansing over the 2018-19 budget for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

In April, MCO Presidents from every facility unanimously signed onto letters opposing the budget proposals and asking legislators to reconsider their position.

With the House and Senate differing in their recommendations, the budget was sent to conference committee where members of both chambers were selected to settle their differences and come up with a joint recommendation.

MCO weighed in heavily throughout the entire budget process, meeting with legislators on both sides of the aisle, advocating both for and against, major budget items that directly impact correctional officers across the state.

On Tuesday, the conference report was released and includes a recommendation by the House and Senate that an unnamed correctional facility close sometime during the next fiscal year that begins October 2018.

At a projected savings of $19.2 million, MCO argued against this proposal on the grounds that closing another prison could jeopardize the safety and security of the department and a facility closure should be handled responsibly and not forced upon the department if bed space did not warrant such an action. In the face of our opposition, the conference opted to recommend a closure.

In addition, the budget also included several gains for corrections staff that members should be aware of and were at the top of MCO’s priority list during discussions.

1) Conference includes full $4.9 million in one-time funding to train 359 new corrections officers.  Funding supports salary and payroll costs of new officers while they participate in training, as well as costs for uniforms, training materials, certifications, food, travel, and lodging.  House and Senate had both proposed reducing this amount.

2) Conference includes $50,000 to fund a study to examine the prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among correctional officers.  House subcommittee included in the budget at the request of MCO.

3) Conference Includes $13.2 million in transition costs to end private food contract and return to state-run food service.  The Senate had cut all transition funding in its budget.

4) Conference removes Senate provision that would have obligated MDOC to require their health care provider to privatize prison nurses. 

The corrections budget was passed with all members of the conference committee voting yes and will now be rolled into the broader budgetary discussion. MCO will continue to follow up on this story.