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Closure Of Ojibway Correctional Facility Criticized By UP Lawmakers

Several Upper Peninsula lawmakers are coming out in opposition to the closing of a prison in Gogebic County.

Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington announced on Tuesday that the Ojibway Correctional Facility will be closed in December as part of the state’s budget cuts.

State Representative Scott Dianda called it “bad news” for the more than 200 employees who work at the facility and their families.

State Representative Sara Cambensy expressed her concern that this move will cause additional stress on local public safety departments.

State Senator Tom Casperson called the news disappointing and said he’s frustrated that the consequence to the Western UP was not considered.

Casperson went on to say the closure is a “slap in the face for the whole UP” after accepting the responsibility of a prison at a time other communities did not want one.

Candidate for State Senate Ed McBroom and State Representative candidate Ken Summers also expressed their opposition to the closure.

Ojibway houses about 700 prisoners and is a relatively new facility with the capability of housing over 1200.

The closure of Ojibway will leave U.P. prisons in Baraga, Marquette, Munising, Newberry, and Kinross and follows recent closures in Iron River, Manistique, Shingleton, Painesdale, and Kincheloe.

Here are the statements released by each lawmaker:

Statement from state Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) on the announcement that the state will close Ojibway Correctional Facility in December:

MARENISCO — This morning, Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington announced that she will close the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco in Gogebic County on December 1. In response, State Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) issued the following statement:

            “This is bad news for the more than 200 employees who support their families thanks to the good jobs that Ojibway Correctional Facility provides for people across the Western U.P. Some of these workers drive from surrounding towns and counties, but now the closest facility they might be able to transfer to would be more than 100 miles away. That’s a tough option for a family up here particularly in the winter months.”

                “I voted against the recent state budget because it included a prison closing. Our U.P. communities can’t afford to lose any jobs, and losing more than 200 jobs is going to be devastating for families and our small U.P. towns. This decision puts the state’s bottom line before community safety and working families, and that is appalling. Gov. Rick Snyder and the state Unemployment Insurance Agency need to immediately begin work with these workers, Marenisco Township officials and Gogebic County officials on job placement services and economic development opportunities. These folks put their lives on the line at work every day to keep the rest of us safe. Republicans who think saving a buck is more important than keeping communities safe and helping working families get by need to do whatever it takes to help these folks find good jobs.”

Statement from state Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) on the announcement that the state will close Ojibway Correctional Facility in December:

MARQUETTE — This morning, Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington announced that she will close the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco in Gogebic County on December 1. In response, State Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) issued the following statement:

“With the Governor’s office not proposing a prison closure in his 2018-2019 budget, and the additional proposed facility closure coming from Senate and House appropriation chairs, I’m concerned about who or what is driving this decision. While all legislators are concerned about our state’s bottom line when allocating taxpayer dollars during our budget negotiations, we also have a responsibility to keep our communities safe. Keeping our communities safe includes not overtaxing our local county jails and police officers who are operating their departments on shoestring budgets with limited staff and financial resources. Our local communities cannot absorb more stress on their public safety departments if we truly don’t have the prison population numbers to warrant the closure of another facility. Therefore, I’m cautious to say this is a necessary and appropriate prison closure when our governor, who manages and works closely with our MDOC director and administration team, did not recommend another prison closure in his budget when he came to the legislature earlier this year.”

McBroom Statement on Prison Closure Announcement

The State of Michigan Department of Corrections announced the closure of Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marinesco today. Marinesco is on the far west end of the Upper Peninsula in Gogebic County. Ojibway houses about 700 prisoners and is a relatively new facility with the capability of housing over 1200. The prison employs over 200 persons in a county with some of the highest unemployment in the state.

The 2019 budget, passed in June, called for the closure of another prison in the state but it was unknown until today which facility it would be. The 2019 fiscal year begins October 1, 2018 so the time frame for the shutdown is very fast. State Senator John Proos of south-west Michigan is chairman of Corrections Appropriations in the senate and pushed hard for the closure during debate. Senator Proos, with no prisons in his district, has been a consistent fighter for closures, citing the significant reductions to state prison populations over the last 8 years.

However, former Representative Ed McBroom, had a different perspective on the closures and Senator Proos’ arguments. “This closure is another example of the state being both financially dishonest as well as dismissive of the U.P.,” McBroom said in a statement. “We know the reduction in population has more to do with fudging recidivism numbers and sending more prisoners to our county jails than with an actual reduction in incarcerations. This does nothing more than shift the cost from the State to our counties, who cannot afford that shift. And the costs of running Ojibway are not being fairly compared to other facilities because the state is putting undo emphasis on distance rather than taking into account the relatively young age of the facility, security of the location, and proximity to other state facilities nearby. Most of all, it is a state run, typical, myopic way of budgeting that ignores the net costs to the state by foisting such a dramatic hurt on a small, already hurting community —a community mind you that invited this prison in when other communities were turning up their noses.”

McBroom has been working with State Senator Tom Casperson since the budget fight began on ways to keep the prison open. Senator Casperson’s office released a statement saying, “We previously presented a plan to corrections that would have saved money while not attacking any facility and ensuring counties are not left subsidizing the closure. However, this was not the approach desired because it failed to promote the misplaced notion that ‘recidivism is at an all time low.’ I am very disappointed in this news and frustrated that the significant consequence that will result to the Western U.P. was not considered, especially after this community accepted this responsibility from the state at a time other communities shunned having a prison – the lack of recognition is a slap in the face for the whole U.P.”

The closure of Ojibway will leave U.P. prisons in Baraga, Marquette, Munising, Newberry, and Kinross and follows recent closures in Iron River, Manistique, Shingleton, Painesdale, and Kincheloe.

Statement from Ken Summers, candidate for Michigan’s 110th House District, on the coming closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility

Marenisco Township, MI — Today the Michigan Department of Corrections announced they will be closing the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marenisco, and operations will cease on December 1st. Decades ago when no one wanted correctional facilities in their communities, Yoopers stepped up and welcomed the livable wages and family sustaining jobs created by the facility. In response to the announcement by the MDOC, Ken Summers, candidate for state representative in the 110th House District, issued the following statement:

“Last spring when Republican leaders in Lansing passed a budget along party lines that cut corrections spending by 18.8 million dollars, they effectively cut jobs for corrections officers. Today they announced that families in our community will pay that price.

Closing this correctional facility means putting more than 200 people out of work. These hardworking men and women, and their families will need a transition plan. The same leaders who are cutting these jobs need to immediately get to work with the Ojibway staff to talk through job placement, retraining, education assistance, and retirement options. They also need to think through plans to utilize the facility, perhaps to assist with our ongoing mental health and substance abuse issues that are tearing families apart. As a current candidate and as state representative, I will champion quick and efficient transition plans for both our working people and this facility.”

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