The Michigan Department of Corrections does not do enough to document how it justifies which prisons is selected for closure, a recent audit report states.
Written by Jesse Baroka on January 3, 2019
The Michigan Department of Corrections does not do enough to document how it justifies which prisons is selected for closure, a recent audit report states. Though providing a written analysis for shuttering prisons isn’t required by law, “we believe that doing so is a good business practice to help foster transparency,” auditors wrote in a Dec. 28 report from the Office of Auditor General. The Michigan Department of Corrections closed three prisons from 2016 to 2018 — Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley in 2016, and West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon and Ojibway Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula in 2018. While the department now collects information on facilities’ ages, condition, operational costs, capacities and economic impacts, auditors reported it failed to show how it weighs those factors in deciding which prison will get the ax. The recent audit was “frustrating” for department officials, MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said. He contended the department complied with state budget laws that required it “fully consider” the economic impacts of closing prisons. Gautz said there is no single factor that determines which prisons are shuttered, including a prison’s impact on a local economy. Auditors stated the department is charged with considering economic impacts of closures. In the audit, MDOC officials argued the department provided hundreds of pages of documents justifying the closures of West Shoreline and Ojibway and provided “talking points” to explain the closures. The recent audit was a review of auditors’ 2012 finding that the department did not evaluate costs of facilities, including some that it had closed, and did not keep sufficient documentation supporting the factors weighed by department leaders who decided which prisons should be closed or consolidated. At the time, auditors recommended the department start keeping better records to show why certain prisons were selected. MDOC only partially complied with that 2012 recommendation, according to the auditors. Gautz said auditors are “moving the goalposts” by asking for written justification of closures versus collecting data and considering prisons’ economic impacts.