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State's 2019 budget contains several key items for Department of Corrections

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Michigan’s new budget attempts to tackle the shortage of employees in the state’s prisons.

The boost in money for hiring new corrections officers would start in the fiscal year 2019.

The state won’t privatize its prison nurses. Some lawmakers crafting the state budget originally wanted to outsource the hiring of the state’s prison nurses. This was something the Michigan Department of Corrections opposed.

Chris Gautz is with the department. He says the state already can’t pay nurses what they might make in the private sector. But what it can offer is attractive state benefits.

“Having them be state employees allows us to retain and recruit those critical positions.”

In the past, the state has had problems with privatization. That includes bugs in food and inappropriate relationships between employees and inmates while it contracted with an outside company for food service.

In 2019, some inmates in Michigan’s prisons will get a new chance to get their GED. The budget puts a little more than $2 million toward technology for high risk inmates.

Those inmates will get to use tablets and other computer technology in order to take online classes and tests.

Chris Gautz is with the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says these inmates can’t be around other prisoners to take the classes or use community computers. Gautz says giving these inmates access to programming will likely help them move down to a lower security level.

“We’re getting them education and getting them down to a lower level where they can get access to more programming and then get out and have a better chance of success once they actually parole.”

Gautz says it’s cheaper to house lower security inmates, so this could also eventually save the state money.