|The Alger Correctional Facility (LMF), a state prison in Munising, Michigan, is in a severe corrections officer staffing crisis. The current workforce of officers at this prison has an alarming vacancy rate of 40%, and that percentage would be even higher if a segregation housing unit that is currently closed were to reopen. The prison is 66 officers short of the required 166 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 406 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 406 overtime shifts, 208 of them were mandatory double shifts. During this same two-week period, the prison also “closed” 240 officer positions. A closed position means that the prison is operating with less than the minimum number of officers that are required. The staffing crisis is taking a heavy toll on the corrections officers at the LMF prison. Several of them gave examples of how it is impacting their lives:
“This is absolutely killing my family. I have two sons and a beautiful wife who love spending time together as a family. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen because I am forced to work overtime every other day. We have probably half of our Officers actively searching for other jobs because of mandatory overtime. And that isn’t counting the dozens who have already left the Department.”
“I have two kids that are fully into sports. I’m constantly missing their events/games due to mandates. And I’m working more overtime to avoid getting mandated on certain days that I need off to watch their events. I haven’t felt so tired and beat down every day like this before in my life. It’s taking a toll physically and mentally on myself and creating a real strain with my family and outside obligations. I feel like a prisoner somedays because I spend more time at the prison than I do outside of it.”
“I drive 1 hour to work each way. I lose time with my wife and children when I get mandated. I do the overtime to avoid the mandated overtime the next day to get rest and spend time with my family. When I do get mandated, it is usually a violation of the 32-hour rule. It’s hard to stay awake at work and on the way home. I do get a little crabby when I’m that tired and I take it out on others when it isn’t their fault. I had to use sick time, which causes another officer to be mandated, just to recover. I don’t feel safe driving to work and back in fear of falling asleep at the wheel.”
“I am a single parent that has to rely on my 66-year-old mother to drive 30 miles to pick my son up from school/playground and then sit at my home for an undetermined amount of time. It makes it impossible to plan anything with my family and loved ones. I never in a million years dreamed I would have to work like this at my age with my seniority. People are starting to feel like there is no light at the end of this tunnel and are beginning to give up.”
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.