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Posted on Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 11:02 a.m.

Privatizing prisons is the wrong way for Michigan to save money

By Letters to the Editor

I understand that the state is in a budget crunch and that corrections takes a big chunk out of the general fund. Pursuing privatization in prisons (HB 5174/5177 and SB 877/878), however, is not “reinventing” anything. We have tried it. It did not save money, and in fact proved MORE costly than 33 of the state’s 37 prisons at the time. It failed and we learned our lesson.

For-profit companies should not take on the role of restricting citizens rights, using physical force if necessary, on the state’s behalf. They exist to make a profit, which they find by cutting corners and paying staff less. Higher turnover and instability add to the volatile situation inside. This is not what you should strive for in corrections.

As a corrections officer, I work inside every day and I see where there could be efficiencies that would mean savings to the state and “reinvent” corrections within the existing state run facilities. This is how we should and have been moving forward through the “New Solutions for Michigan” report state employees incorporated into our contracts. Listen to us, and together we can improve the system and not waste our time and money on relearning an old lesson.

Pat Gerrity
Ann Arbor



Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

Prison For Profit! Granted someone's got to do it, the extent arguable. But that "profit" is only coming out of the workers wages or the prisoner's costs. I assume prison treatment is humane but not much more. Argue what should go as you like. I say keep it so no one is getting rich in the process and I have to imagine all prison employees deserve hazard pay with good benefits. Bottom line it - it is union busting so someone making a profit literally on warehousing human beings.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 6:16 a.m.

My Dear Fellow Citizen, Have we as human beings have ran out of alternatives accept to resort back to uncivilized, and unnatural medieval resolution to deal with our social issues? Basically, this is slavery in a disguise and it is definitely not about race... it's about color...the color of green, as in money green. Along side murder and rape this is one of the most depraved crime in our history and evil at its best. If this bill goes through the senate and the governor signs it, you, your kids and your grand kids will have price tags on their heads just as cattles... This bill isn't only unethical, but morally wrong... And for the unions, you have yourselves and ancient challenge, a battle that you had over a hundred years ago has come back to attack you... for a prisoner being paid 19cent an hour compared to 19 dollars hour per hour for an assembly worker sounds pretty good to misguided stock holders and politicians until they find themselves in this same hole... good luck!


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 4:12 a.m.

Bob says that "How [an] employee is compensated is immaterial." I disagree. First, privatization would add another layer of management to the system; the corporation management and then the state overseers of the corporation. Second, economic incentives can have unintended consequences. Privately-owned prisons would exist to make money. They can only increase their profit margin by cutting costs or increasing production. Increasing production means putting more people in prison. We already spend too much on locking people away, and we already lock up a greater percentage of our citizens than other "civilized" countries. We do not need any further incentives for increasing the number of people in prison. But economic considerations aside, I also feel that something is basically wrong with using "mercenaries" to carry out the responsibilities of the state. The state decides the punishment and takes away the liberty of citizens in accordance with our laws, and I think the state should be responsible (directly) for carrying out said punishment rather than handing off that responsibility to a private corporation.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

One issue that does not fade away is can the government concede police y to aprivate contractor or the contractor personnel. Who has liability for The untoward results o contractor police action, such as a shooting, Damage or injuries resulting from a chase of an escaped convict, etc


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 2:19 a.m.

A better choice would be to do a sentence review and see if some reform is needed. I suspect that if the sentencing laws were carefully reviewed, that we could empty several prisons. I also suspect that ankle bracelets would allow more non-violent offenders out of jail. Alternate sentencing for some may also reduce the population - for some the Marines might be a good choice. In short, we could reduce the population, close some prisons (maybe Pat Getty's) and work harder on the remaining prisoners to help them reform. In many cases they can't read, or write. They have no job skills and untreated disorders. If there were half the prisoners, it might be possible to solve some or most of these problems.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

Don Thanks for an intelligent common sense response. We need to get the politics out of sentencing laws....sigh.

Mush Room

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 3:57 a.m.

Michigan needs a sentencing commission that makes sentencing recommendations based on data, not political whim. Michigan also needs to develop punishment alternatives that satisfy it's law abiding citizens. Several Michigan counties that couldn't afford bigger new jails have become pretty creative in this area and the state could learn from them. Because of the dearth of alternatives, we incarcerate way too many criminals: 7 times the rates in Canada most of Europe and Australia. Michigan has one of the highest incarceration rates in the U.S. and the highest among Great Lakes States. Incarcerated criminals are largely addicts and/or mentally ill. They typically have no marketable job skills and what they know they learned from other prisoners: basically how to be a better criminal. The system has a 5 year recidivism rate around 67% and there is no correlation between length of time in prison and commitment of another crime after release. Our criminal justice system is badly broken and privatization is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

Wow, where do I start? We have one loaded sentence in this as the argument against privatization. "take on the role of restricting citizens rights" Let's start by putting the blame where it belongs, not on corrections officer, whether public or private. Restricting citizens rights is done first by the convicted criminal, with cooperation of the police and courts. The court has already decided that the rights of this citizen need to be temporarily restricted. The corrections officer is not restricting anyone. "using physical force if necessary" Incarceration does not require force, unless the inmate begins a physical altercation. Physical force may also be dispensed by a homeowner, private mall or hospital security officer, or bar bouncer, and that is allowed. "on the state's behalf" Well, even the public union employee is not doing it on his own behalf, of course it is the state's. How that employee is compensated is immaterial. I certainly understand Mr. Gerrity advocating for his job and those of his coworkers, and value the opinion of experienced professionals. But the only way that we can reduce prison costs is by sending fewer people to prison, and for shorter sentences. We can't continue sending the entire male population of large cities to prison and expect anything to change. Taking this approach will eliminate the need for privatizing.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

Your argument about physical force is flawed. Should an inmate attempt to escape and actually make it outside the gates...what then? Do we then authorize non-governmental guard personell to initiate a high speed pursuit? Or how's about we say that non-government guards are now authorized to shoot a fleeing inmate? Or maybe they can Taser them? Secondly, the types of force used by the homeowner are considerably different than the force used by a prison guard. The homeowner, in defending his home for instance, can not place you in handcuffs or leg irons. The home owner cannot place you in a confined space and refuse to let you out for an indeterminate amount of time. The prison guard can do both.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

'Union thugs' ... nice, reasonable language. So Mike, I guess 'minimum wage, no benefit, contractors' is what you'd like? The unmentioned facts (new concept, Mike): "Corrections spending has grown 538% in the last 34 years, making Michigan one of only four states that spends more on corrections than it does on higher education. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of inmates being housed in Michigan correctional facilities. In 2008, corrections spending in Michigan was $2.08 billion, $1.9 billion of which was spending from the general fund. This represents 5.2% of all state expenditures and 20% of all general fund appropriations in the state, an increase from 5% in 1983. Current projections anticipate spending to increase to over $2.6 billion by 2012." Privatizing services in the public sector rarely saves money; time and time again it ends up in scandal and inevitably costs more. Legislators who aren't looking at facts and unwilling to see private contractor lies for what they are. The experience in Arizona (NYTimes): "Such has been the case lately in Arizona. Despite a state law stipulating that private prisons must create "cost savings," the state's own data indicate that inmates in private prisons can cost as much as $1,600 more per year, while many cost about the same as they do in state-run prisons. The research, by the Arizona Department of Corrections, also reveals a murky aspect of private prisons that helps them appear less expensive: They often house only relatively healthy inmates. "It's cherry-picking," said State Representative Chad Campbell, leader of the House Democrats. "They leave the most expensive prisoners with taxpayers and take the easy prisoners." But those are the facts and will be ignored by this legislature and this governor as they pursue their ideology despite the facts (who needs'em?).


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

It's all about appearing budget conscious all the while giving a money-making enterprise to friends at the Chamber of Commerce. Do the private prisons in Ohio save money? NO! The man who now runs Ohio prisons headed a major corporation that RUNS PRIVATE PRISONS!!! What does that tell you? It's not about saving money for taxpayers. It is about making more profits for big powerful corporations. And citizens rights will be trampled in the process. Remember that what happens in those prisons is done in YOUR name.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Beware public/private partnerships. Judge sentenced for accepting kickbacks from private prison business. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

The best way to determine this is to look at other states and see how it works. If people like Mr. Gerrity in such a prison say it is bad or good that is something to be considered. I am curious about the authors statement that we tried this before and it failed. In my 30 years in LE, I am not aware Michigan prisons were ever privatized. If so, I would be interested in some information on that; when, why, what happened, etc. Personally I do not like the idea. Some services are best kept in the govt. Perhaps we should work on why our prisons get so full and try to fix that.

Mush Room

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

We contracted for a juvenile prison in Baldwin. It didn't save any money, the violence rates were 3 times Michigan's public juvenile prisons, it was chronically understaffed, staff turnover was 125% annually and there were contract disputes. The state eventually cancelled the contract.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

Hey Mick52 - who about YOU go out and find the success stories on prison privatization for us? Should be a long list... In fact, how about going out and finding all the state success stories on privatization of any state service? We're waiting.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

Look at Arizona...


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Mick...look to Ohio.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

It's not about the writer worrying about his job. It's about the unnecessary risk to all of us, as Michigan taxpayers. When privately-run corrections mistreat, maim or kill inmates, the states they work for get sued. Multimillion dollar awards come out of our pockets. The skills corrections employees have make them very hireable in the private sector. If a group of experienced people in any business offer ideas on saving money and eliminating waste, only fools ignore those ideas.

David Briegel

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

Keep the profit out of CRIME....punishment!


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.



Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

So I guess we have a choice between private companies making money off prisons or union thugs making money off prisons. I guess my choice runs toward the private companies because at least there's a competitive bid process to ensure good use of tax revenues.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

If you believe a fair process exists in selecting private prison corporations....look to Ohio....where the Director of the Dept of Corrections....was hired from a major private corporation buying up prisons and running them. Now he is selling more prisons. However the cost of running the already privatized prisons is more that the state run facilities.

David Briegel

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

you prefer corporate thugs!


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

One other thing.... the only thing the author is worried about is his/her job..... period.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

Why do you seem to think that someone having a career in the prison system is a bad thing? Do you want to go guard murderers, rapists and drug dealers? And why is it such a bad thing for someone to want to protect their job and/or career? If someone threatened to take away your livelyhood, you'd protect it as well wouldn't you? Or would you rather just meekly walk away and say &quot;Ok...I didn't need that job and career anyway&quot;?


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 3:48 a.m.

I care about the efficient use of tax dollars not creating careers for prison guards.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

Should they not be concerned about it? Also, it seems very clear there is a trend to cut funds towards thing in the name of privitization when really they are just trying to get rid of everyone who works in a field and replace them with lower quality workers for less. I don't see how that will end up being better for the field regardless of which one....


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Wow, so now we are complaining that prisoners have entitlements? They have constitutional protections (as we all do) but I see no reason to burn tax resources when we don't have to... especially for criminal.s


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

Based on this fallacy should we sell police and fire protection to the lowest bidder? Should we privatize national security? If a private company fails in its DUTY to protect what recourse is there? NONE. The state is saying we will give you X number of prisoners. What if the conviction rates only warrant X-100k prisoners? Do we then start going after more people so we can make the prison quota? Extend sentences so we are getting the best bang for our buck? How about we look at reality <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> But don't let facts ruin your argument. The right wing never does. The motto of the right, tell a lie often enough and loud enough and people will believe it.


Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

If the rational business plan indicates it will be cheaper then we should do it.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Kudos to you, Pat Getty, for stepping up and bucking the ideological trend. If people really saw what goes on with &quot;private security companies&quot; when it comes to hiring quality staff and staggering under 125% annual turnover, they'd see through the Republican New World Order of &quot;privatization&quot; of everything. But nooo, ideological sound bites &amp; propaganda trumps reality every time, right?