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DOC director targets prisoner work problem

Corrections Director Dan Heyns says the Michigan State Industries -- the prison system's work for inmates arm -- is in need of change. (See this summary of a report from Gongwer News Service.)

The Center for Michigan reported on the continuing financial problems about MSI back in August.

Among the findings from CFM: "Between civilian oversight and guards, MSI is spending about $12 million per year on staff, or the equivalent of 33 percent of its gross revenue. (See MSI’s 2010 financial report here.)

"Most of the staff is, in fact, civilian — 140 people who supervise the roughly 1,000 prisoners working in factories at any given time."

According to the Gongwer report (subscription-only), Heyns told a joint meeting of the legislative appropriations subcommittees in charge of the MDOC, led by Sen. John Proos and Rep. Joe Haveman, that he wants to redirect how MSI operates.

"I think the public has already paid for a lot of these things with their tax dollars, and they'll enjoy seeing work crews out there repairing some of the stuff that wouldn't get repaired now because so many communities are challenged financially," Heyns said, in reference to having prisoners work more on community projects.

Local governments certainly may need the help since Gov. Rick Snyder is dismissing the idea that the funds lost to locals via a repeal of the personal property tax need to be fully replaced. (See how much a financial impact PPT repeal would be for local communities at the Michigan Municipal League's site.)

If PPT goes, and the funds vanish or come back only in limited amounts, city managers and township boards will be lining up to beg for prisoner labor because they won't have the money to pay for anything else.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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