Prison Closure Delay

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A federal appeals court has blocked Michigan from moving sick inmates from a Jackson prison that's supposed to close next month--for now. The court says lawyers will have a chance to argue the closure before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in September.

The order effectively keeps the facility open for now for most of the 1,000 prisoners housed at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati says Michigan can transfer about 300 healthy prisoners from the prison, but not the 700 or so sick ones.

Inmates' lawyers say closing the prison is an attempt to escape long-standing federal oversight of Jackson prisons' health care system.

The delay will cost the state at least $10 million dollars. Keeping the prison open will cost $6 million, and at least another $3 million until the court decides. The Department of Corrections will also spend about a $0.5 million adding air conditioning for the summer.

"We expected the prison to close, we expected not to install air conditioning," spokesperson Russ Marlan says. He says, now, it may mean other budget constraints. "Whether or not we'll have to close another prison, or a camp..."

As for the employees, both union and state says it's not exactly good news. Their jobs are in limbo.

Michigan Corrections Organization president Mel Grieshaber calls it a "Catch 22"--and adds "When they start cutting, that's gonna impact our officers working on the line...everywhere."

The court says the state can move the approximately 300 prisoners who don't have special needs. They plan to do so in the coming weeks.

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