Muskegon prison closing; 174 workers affected

The West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon. (Jan. 29, 2018)

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly 175 people are losing their jobs as the state shutters a prison in Muskegon.

The Michigan Department of Corrections notified the 174 employees of the West Shoreline Correctional Facility of its closure on Monday. State officials pointed to a “significant decline” in Michigan’s prison population for the shutdown, which is slated for March 28.

The MDOC says its prison population dropped below 40,000 people for the first time in 2017.

MDOC Director Heidi Washington said while closures are “challenging,” the lower prison population points to the system’s success in preventing recidivism by a recent renewed effort on prisoner education and vocational training. The MDOC also attributed the decline to fewer people ending up behind bars.

The MDOC says Michigan’s recidivism rate has remained historically low and is one of the lowest in the country, at 29.8 percent.

The MDOC says it will work to shift as many affected employees as possible into current job openings in its system.

Prison officials also plan to work with state employment agencies to help displaced workers.

Shortly after the shutdown was announced, Michigan Corrections Organization President Tom Tylutki issued the following statement:

“It’s unfortunate for corrections officers any time a prison closure is announced, because their lives are affected so deeply. A closure is a time of uncertainty and stress for officers because their employment, work location, living arrangements, childcare (sic), and other critical aspects of day-to-day life are made uncertain. We know it is a difficult process, but like MCO has done in the past, we will work to ensure the West Shoreline closure goes as smoothly as it possibly can. All these details that impact officers’ lives must be sorted out, according to MDOC and MCO protocol, in the coming weeks. MCO will keep members updated every step of the way.”

West Shoreline Correctional Facility opened in 1987 and contains 1,245 beds for male prisoners ages 18 and older. The MDOC says 87 corrections officers are among the 174 people who work there.

Since 2005, the state has closed and consolidated 26 correctional facilities and camps, reducing spending by nearly $400 million, according to the MDOC. Michigan prison officials expect the closure of West Shoreline to save taxpayers $18.8 million in the 2019 fiscal year.

**Correction: Based on an incorrect news release from the Michigan Department of Corrections, a previous version of this article stated the prison was in Muskegon Heights. It is actually in Muskegon. The MDOC later sent an updated press release.