Cooper Street Correctional Facility

The Cooper Street 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 27.4%, with an anticipated increase over the next several months. The prison is 45 officers short of the required 164 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 August 6th, 2023, to August 19th, 2023, there were 479 overtime shifts at this prison. The majority of the overtime was “double shifts”, which means the officers worked 16 hours that day. Of those 479 overtime shifts, 310 of them were mandatory double shifts. During this same two-week period, 94 of these mandatory overtime shifts were 32-hour violations which is a protective mechanism for officers to receive adequate rest in between shifts.

The staffing crisis is taking a heavy toll on the corrections officers at Cooper Street Correctional Facility. Several of them shared examples of how it is impacting their lives:

“I have had to neglect my responsibilities outside of work. Things such as helping my wife take care of our four young children, as well as household, maintenance, vehicle maintenance, etc. I don’t have enough time to get adequate amount of sleep, or physical exercise. The mandates are taking a toll on my physical and mental health.”

“You can’t plan anything on any day you work because you don’t know if you’re going home. Now the mandates are so regular that if on an off chance you get to go home you don’t know what to do. Then you feel like you’re in your own family’s way because they have gotten so used to you not being there. I don’t work in a prison. I’m living in a prisoned environment. At some point something or someone will snap and then maybe we will be taken seriously. What a shame”

 “You can’t have a life outside of work. You have to plan to be mandated first, then home life is second. One pay period, I got mandated 15 working days in a row. I’ve missed so much at home especially with young children to raise.”

“When I’m mandated, I have to make sure to call home before my kids go to bed so I can say goodnight to them, or else they end up losing sleep waiting for me to come home. I miss out on special events for my children and miss holidays with my family”

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.