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.

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Homer Bailey
Sun, 12/25/2011 - 8:24pm
As a former Superintendent of one of the MSI factories. When times were good (BGE) before Engler, the Industries had over 50 million dollars in our accounts and all supervisery personnel were paid from this account. Engler confiscated this account, and assigned it to be administered by the MDOC and we became a cost on the system rather than an asset. During the 70s the corrections dept tried to have inmates assigned outside to perform road cleanup, and other jobs which the local administrations couldn't afford and they met with stiff resistance from the unions who have the responsibilities of performing these duties, again. (prisoners taking jobs and money from needy families) The director needs to get rid of the present administration of MSI and hire someone with enought forsight to bring the Industries back to it's previous money making enterprise. When employed by the industries I submitted hundreds of new product ideas. I was paid to create new and better products, which when submitted, were regarded as not necessary at this time as we were doing allright. I say "Bull Droppings". The industries could produce 100 million per year with the right administration as they have in the past. Any questions, contact me. Homer Bailey 989-872-5042