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.”

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.”