The Parnall Correctional Facility, a state prison in Jackson, Michigan, is in a severe corrections officer staffing crisis. The current workforce of corrections officers at this prison has an alarming vacancy rate of 27%, with an anticipated increase over the next several months. The prison is 49 officers short of the required 186 officers that it is supposed to have, resulting in the remaining officers working an excessive, unsustainable amount of overtime. This staffing crisis has been going on for several years at this prison and is worsening.
To put this in perspective, over the two-week period from July 9, 2023, to July 22, 2023, there were 463 overtime shifts at this prison. The majority of the overtime was “double shifts”, which means the officers worked 16 hours that day. Of those 463 overtime shifts, 219 of them were mandatory double shifts. During this same two-week period, the prison “closed” 132 officer positions, which means that officer positions were not filled, and the facility operated with less than the minimum number of required officers.
The staffing crisis is taking a heavy toll on the corrections officers at the Jackson prison. Several of them shared examples of how it is impacting their lives:
“I have 3 children that are all involved in year around sports, and I have missed a lot of events because of mandates. Not to mention family dinners, birthday parties, family get togethers in general. When I have been able to make it, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t function. Either I volunteer for a 16 hour shift the day before so I can try to make it out or I risk missing the event because of getting mandated. It is a constant juggle of sacrificing my time in prison so I can enjoy my time with loved ones.”
“I am tired, stressed out, and angry all the time. I have no time to spend with my two young boys. I spend all my time at home trying to catch up on the upkeep on my house and animals. It is impossible to make any plans to do anything. I frequently find myself nodding off driving into work through road construction at night. This life is not sustainable. I have been dealing with this for seven years.”
“My husband has cancer. It’s being away or not knowing if I’m going to be home to care for him, the house, the animals. I am mentally exhausted. Tired all the time. Stressed with no sleeping because of work because I can’t shut it down. I don’t eat right or smile. It is a life challenge every day.”
The Michigan Department of Corrections has tried to focus 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 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, other MDOC staff and population, and the 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.