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Prison safety, security must be top priorities

April 7, 2012
The Daily News

It's no secret that the state of Michigan is still working its way out of the Great Recession and near collapse of the automobile industry, which put hundreds of thousands of residents out of work and severely cut state revenues.

There have been a variety of moves at the state level that have helped trim costs, including reducing staffing levels in many state departments and requiring more contribution by employees to health care premiums and other costs of doing business.

All of that has made sense, given the situation. But one area that needs to remain strong and stable is the Michigan Department of Corrections. And recent moves by the state could reduce safety and increase stress of a very difficult job.

That job is corrections officer, and these dedicated men and woman who work to control the insides of the state's prison facilities need all the support they can get.

Every day they step into a world that most state residents never see, and it's a world of murderers, rapists, drug dealers and other criminals who can pose great danger to corrections officers.

Recently, the MDOC made cost-cutting moves that eliminated the resident unit officer classification and perimeter security vehicle positions.

While the maximum security Marquette Branch Prison didn't use perimeter security vehicles, there were many resident unit officers who had the experience to properly manage the cell block they oversaw and stayed at, instead of shifting around the prison as other officers do.

At less secure facilities in the U.P., such as the Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, the perimeter security vehicles were the last line of defense between hardened criminals and the public.

In fact, three murderers who hijacked a truck and smashed it through the wall of Kinross in 2010 were foiled in their escape attempt by an officer doing duty in a perimeter security vehicle.

A large crowd lined U.S. 41 South Tuesday to conduct an educational picket in an attempt to raise awareness among area residents what these prison operation changes could mean for the public.

Hopefully, the public will take note and let our state officials know the serious concerns honest, law-abiding citizens of Michigan have with efforts to reduce the level of safety in connection with our prisons.

The Mining Journal




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