Michigan Could Privatize Prison Health System

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Running prisons is expensive and the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) says it spends almost $2 billion a year, which takes up one quarter of the general fund.

"I think the citizens of Michigan want us to do a better job of controlling our cost as well as keeping them safe," said Russ Marlan, spokesperson for Michigan DOC.

To do that, DOC requested bids for prison healthcare and mental health work, which means outsourcing positions like psychiatrists, nurses and social workers.

"We want to increase efficiency and decrease cost and if there's a vendor that provides us a bid where that could occur, then we'll take a look at that," Marlan said.

However, that could mean laying off about 1300 state employees. According to the employees' union, just the thought of that is already hurting members.

"To be blunt, many of our members are stressed out right now. They're not sure what's going to happen," said Ray Holman, legislative liaison for UAW Local 6000.

Holman says they've come up with a counter proposal. He couldn't reveal specifics yet, but says their proposal will show state employees can do the job effectively and efficiently.

"What we're looking at is management-staff ratios, we're looking at efficiently using staff, we're looking at people who can do multiple tasks," Holman said.

Holman also said money is not the most important when you're talking about a department that ties in deeply with public safety.

"Forget the dollars, think about the citizens and think about the lives that could be affected by this. Let's not farm that work out," Holman said.

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