State to close prison facility in Muskegon Heights

Posted at 11:07 AM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 16:20:59-05

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Corrections announced Monday that a West Michigan facility will close in March.

The West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights will close due to a "significant decline in the prison population statewide", according to a press release from the MDOC. They say the closing of West Shoreline is expected to save taxpayers $18.8 million.

The 174 staff at the facility were informed of the closure Monday.  The MDOC says they hope to be able to move as many staff as possible into vacancies currently in the MDOC statewide.  They say all options are being taken to minimize the staff impact.  The facility closes on March 24.

“We’re grateful for all the hard work of West Shoreline staff and will continue to support them as we wind down operations at the facility,” MDOC Director Heidi Washington said in a press release. “Closures are challenging, but this represents a step in the right direction as we focus on giving offenders the skills they need to be successful in the community so they do not return to prison.”

The MDOC says that the state's prison population has declined by more than 7 percent in the past three years.  This is due to a new focus on prisoner education, vocational training and fewer individuals coming to prison and fewer returning after release.

The state says their prison population peaked at over 51,500 in 2007, but just recently dropped to under 40,000 for the first time in 20 years. 26 facilities and camps have been closed and consolidated since 2005.

The West Shoreline facility was built in 1987 and houses 1,245 level I prisoners.

The Michigan Corrections Organization, the union that represents employees at the facility, released this 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, 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.”