The Charles E. Egeler Reception and Guidance Center (RGC), a state prison in Jackson, Michigan, is in a severe corrections officer staffing crisis. The current workforce of officers at this prison has an alarming vacancy rate of 32%. The prison is 85 officers short of the required 270 officers that it is supposed to have, resulting in the remaining officers working an excessive, unsustainable amount of overtime. This staffing crisis is not a new issue at this prison, it has been ongoing for several years and is worsening.
To put this in perspective, over the two-week period from June 25, 2023 to July 8, 2023, there were 711 overtime shifts worked at this prison. The majority of these overtime shifts were “double shifts”, which means the officers worked 16 hours that day. Of those 711 overtime shifts, 348 of them were mandatory double shifts where the corrections officers were forcedto stay at work. Of those 348 mandatory overtime shifts, 60 of them were in violation of the 32-hour rule, which is a safeguard policy to keep corrections officers from being forced to work overtime on consecutive days. The number of mandatory overtime shifts would be far higher, but many officers are forced to volunteer for double shifts the day before family events in an attempt to avoid mandatory overtime the day of the event.
The staffing crisis is taking a heavy toll on the corrections officers at the RGC prison. Several of them gave examples of how it is impacting their lives.
“Nothing can be planned ahead of time outside of work. You go to work stressed out because you are pretty sure you’re going to be mandated to work a double shift every other day at minimum. Driving home after being mandated is stressful because you’re tired and know that you have to go straight to sleep when you get home so you can go back to work the next morning. Then you’re exhausted driving to work and all the next day at work. How long before somebody dies because of all of this? Be it atwork or driving in their vehicle? This whole thing is jeopardizing the lives and the safety of myself and my coworkers, not to mention the safety of the institution and the public. Family life? Forget about it.”
“I feel wore down and not 100% while doing my job, which puts myself and others at danger. I’m tired while driving and hardly see my family. I don’t have time for a healthy family life. I’m looking for a new job because my health and family is worth a lot more than this.”
“I miss a ton of time with my daughter, she has to stay at her grandparents a lot. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to continue this job. I’m exhausted almost 24/7. My off days are considered rest days and I end up getting behind on things in my personal life. I think the overtime is a big contributor to the divorce I’m going through right now. I’m still looking into finding another job, and as soon as I can, I plan on getting out. I gave 8 years to this department, but it’s not worth the mental or physical stress.”
“I don’t see my kids for a week at a time, my wife always says she feels like a single mother and how lonely she is…”
The Michigan Department of Corrections has focused on their recruitment efforts, yet for the past several years the number of officers that have left the ranks has been greater than the number of newly hired officers. The most recent Corrections Officer Academies for new officers have only had approximately 50% of the seats filled, which will likely result in another net loss of officers at the end of this year. There are currently 920 corrections officer vacancies statewide in the MDOC, and that number is growing.
The corrections officer staffing crisis in Michigan prisons needs immediate attention, it is impacting the health and safety of the current officers, the prisoner population, and citizens of Michigan. These officers take pride in their work, even though most of the public is unaware of what they do and how well they do it. We are asking all of our Michigan legislators to take notice of this long-standing crisis and act on current legislation that will help address the long-term recruitment and retention of state corrections officers in Michigan.
On behalf of MCO,