Detroit Evening Report: State corrections officers union calls for National Guard deployment amid prison staffing shortages

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Michigan’s corrections officers’ union has asked the governor to enlist the National Guard to help staff prisons.

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Mark Hartland, president of the nonprofit group Humanity for Prisoners, says a shortage of prison guards is hurting both corrections officers and inmates.

“It’s not good for anyone, and we look at the temporary solution of mobilizing National Guard resources as a positive step, even if it’s, you know, just a stopgap temporary measure,” Hartland said. “Because you know this, this problem has persisted for quite some time.”

Hartland says the National Guard could help in the short-term. But he says state lawmakers need to take steps to permanently reduce prison populations. 

In a statement, the Michigan Department of Corrections acknowledged it has faced staffing challenges in some of its communities, requiring staff to work high levels of both voluntary and mandated overtime.

The Department said it has responded to the situation with an increased focus on advertising positions, holding hiring events, improving working environments, and negotiating raises totaling 18% since October 2020.

“The situation facing MDOC staff continues to be challenging, but the solution is not a temporary measure such as bringing in National Guard members who have not been trained to operate in this environment,” the department said in a statement.

“The department and other stakeholders need to remain focused on efforts that can stabilize staffing in the long-term, including promoting the benefits of a career in Corrections. These include having an active role in keeping their communities safe, serving in a role that can change lives, and the ability to reach annual maximum pay of $68,500 after just 3 and a half years of service as an Officer, which will become effective on October 1,” the statement said.

Michigan Public’s Tracy Samilton contributed to this report.

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  • Sascha Raiyn
    Sascha Raiyn is Education Reporter at 101.9 WDET. She is a native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.