Michigan prisons to eliminate 24-hour perimeter patrols

MUSKEGON — Around-the-clock armed patrols of Muskegon’s state prison perimeters will end April 1.

To the Michigan Department of Corrections, it’s a smart cost-saving move.

To the union representing prison officers, it’s a danger to the prisons and the community.

The Michigan Department of Corrections will replace constant vehicle patrols at 27 of the state’s 31 prisons with random patrols. The move is expected to save $13.1 million statewide, according to the department.

Among the prisons affected will be Muskegon’s Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility and West Shoreline Correctional Facility, 2500 S. Sheridan. Brooks houses inmates classified as Level Four, Two and One – close, medium and minimum security. West Shoreline has minimum security inmates only.

“This idea actually came from our prison wardens,” corrections department spokesman Russ Marlan said. “This is something that came from the men and women that know these prisons best, that know what’s involved in running safe and secure prisons.”

The change will eliminate five positions at each of the affected prisons. The affected officers will be transferred to vacant jobs, so no layoffs are expected, Marlan said.

Marlan said the corrections department has made technological improvements in recent years with lighting, cameras, motion sensors and electrified fences.

“We really just don’t feel we need to run those patrols 24-seven, 365 days a year,” he said.

The Michigan Corrections Organization, which represents corrections officers, sees it differently.

“It’s ridiculous to think someone would think it’s safe not to have an armed officer at the perimeter of the prison,” state President Tom Tylutki said. “We’ve had lots of things thrown over the fence (into the prison grounds), and gun-tower coverage is already drastically reduced.”

Tylutki noted that a perimeter-security officer halted the attempted Upper Peninsula prison break of three convicted murderers in July 2010,killing Muskegon County mass murderer Seth Privacky.

Marlan praised the officer who stopped the break for doing a “great job,” but said many corrections officers witnessed the attempt, which involved hijacking a semi-trailer.

“We believe it would have been the same outcome” even without constant perimeter patrols, Marlan said.

Tylutki said the union plans informational picketing on this and other “health and safety” issues today at the corrections department’s central office in Lansing.

From The Muskegon News.

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