The Michigan Department of Corrections plans to close one of its 29 prisons in January, citing a falling prisoner population and a recidivism rate that has dipped to an all-time low.
The department will shut down the Detroit Reentry Center on Ryan Road on Detroit’s east side. The facility, with a current population of 70 prisoners, has the capacity to house 879 people and has averaged about 500 annually over the past three years.
Across the state, the prisoner population was 34,561 as of Tuesday, marking the first time it has fallen below 35,000 in three decades, the department said.
The recidivism rate, which measures the percentage of people who return to prison within three years of release, is 26.7%, which the department previously said is the lowest recorded rate since the state started tracking it in 1998. In that year, Michigan’s recidivism rate was 45.7%
Detroit Reentry Center employs 220 people, 129 of whom are corrections officers. The department says it will work with staff and their union representatives to determine their options for transferring to other prisons.
“The decision to close a facility is always hard, and I realize this will be a difficult time for the staff at DRC,” MDOC Director Heidi Washington said in a news release. “We understand and value the hard work and dedication the staff have shown, and it is our hope to find places for them within the department to continue that effort.”
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Byron Osborn, president of the Michigan Corrections Organization, said the upcoming closure of Detroit Reentry Center comes as no surprise to officers who work there.
“The writing’s been on the wall for some time. They’ve been steadily decreasing the population,” he said. “Basically, we were just waiting for official notice so people could get their ducks in a row and figure out what they’re gonna do.”
Detroit Reentry Center opened when Ryan Correctional Facility closed at the site in 2012. The facility housed prisoners on dialysis treatment, people on parole completing programming before their release into the community, and certain people who violate parole.
The department eventually stopped sending prisoners to Detroit Reentry Center for programming and reduced the number of people who are sent to the prison as a sanction for violating parole.
Prisoners who need dialysis treatment will be transferred to Woodland Center Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake, located in Livingston County.
MDOC said the prison closure will save $12.3 million in the upcoming fiscal year’s $2 billion corrections budget. The department has closed and consolidated 28 facilities and camps since 2005, resulting in more than $400 million in budget reductions.