Skip to comments.Despite fewer prisoners and employees, state spends more on prison system
Posted on 03/04/2013 11:47:41 AM PST by MichCapCon
In response to Gov. Rick Snyder's proposal to increase the gas tax and auto registration fees, many legislators are looking for alternatives.
This has increased the emphasis on trying to squeeze as many dollars as possible out of existing revenue.
As lawmakers search for potential road funding dollars, one of the state's most expensive departments isn't likely to be left out of the equation. Costing $2 billion annually, the Michigan Department of Corrections continues to take a big bite out of Michigan's budget.
The problem is, the process of how the Department of Corrections spends its money is a bureaucratic mess.
Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, said he thinks a lot of savings could be found in the corrections budget.
"I would say that, if we hold the department accountable, we could find savings in excess of $100 million," Rep. MacMaster said. "We need to clean up the RFP (request for proposal) process. I'm considering moving to have a dialog about this in committee."
An RPF is when a department asks for bids on a job. It describes the preliminary requirements for a commodity or service that's being sought. However, for years lawmakers have complained that they've found it difficult to get a handle on why and what the Michigan Department of Corrections is spending money on.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, said he preferred not to estimate how much savings might be found in the corrections department budget. But he agreed that it could be a significant amount.
"I have been trying to get the department to benchmark their costs," Sen. Proos said. "To me, that's what cleaning up the corrections RFP situation is all about.
"The department has never been able to tell us its cost structure," Sen. Proos continued. "I think we should use the private sector to tell us its costs, function by function and hold the department to that."
Rep. MacMaster said he thinks the department of corrections should have to bid on its own RFPs.
"If you really think about it, it's a conflict of interest," Rep. MacMaster said. "They should be bidding on their own RFPs and give us a chance to compare. If you look at a 900-bed RFP for corrections, you're talking about $350,000 to $400,000 right there. Think of the potential savings when you're dealing with things like that."
Sen. Proos said he supports a lot of what the MDOC has been doing for the past two years.
They have found internal savings and I give them credit for that, Sen. Proos said. They've taken some positive steps. But if we can identify what the real costs are, we could realize savings. Their costs need to be benchmarked against the private sector.
A Senate panel last year found savings of $72.5 million mostly by trimming administration costs including cutting some librarians and therapists.
Today, 43,365 prisoners are in the Michigan system. That's roughly 15 percent fewer than the 51,500 who were in the system in 2006. The MDOC budget for 2006 was about $1.9 billion, roughly $100 million less than the $2 billion Gov. Rick Snyder is recommending for the upcoming fiscal year.
With decrease in prisoners, there also has been a decrease in MDOC employees.
They've lost over 1,500 employees over the past two years, Rep. MacMaster said. They only want about 400 replacements and that seems reasonable.
Despite fewer prisoners and employees, the budget has increased mostly because of increased employee costs.
MDOC officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Export them to Mexico. Tell El President we are having a “swap”.
And when the courts come in and order the prisons to provide cable services, laugh at them and walk away.
defined benefits and sex change operations taking a toll I guess
Govt is quite immune from supply/demand calculations.
I read in the WSJ that there are half as many home fires and twice as many firefighters (national statistics) as 30 years ago.
I believe that Firemen act mostly as medics.
A big part of the costs are not the day-to-day administrative costs, bloated though they may be. The pension and health benefits for the guards, wardens and administrative staff at these prisons is perhaps a much larger factor, and probably still not yet fully taken into account.
Example: the California state penal system. All bureaucracies that run prison systems fall into the same patterns, and since the Michigan state prisons were run by Democrats for years, there are also the same dysfunctional flaws within the system.
I believe that Firemen act mostly as medics....Hell, around here I call them the Crash Department. Smash up your car? Three aerial trucks, a ladder truck and five pumpers show up. Fire? What is that thing you speak of?
I don’t know how it is in Michigan, but in Illinois, the prisoners buy their own TVs, which are about $300 minimum, and also they pay for the cable service. Those are not costs of the state/taxpayers.
I guarantee that maintaining the cable lines, not to mention mounts and injuries resulting from those televisions means that the taxpayers do indeed pay a significant portion of the cost, if not more than what the prisoners pay.
Besides, why on earth would anyone want a prisoner to have a high value personal possession in a prison full of thieves?
Can you cite some facts and sources for your guarantee? The cable lines are maintained by the cable provider. The TVs in IL prisons are plastic framed flat screens, hardly can hurt someone. The TVs are marked as to ownership, and serial numbers recorded. If one went missing, I am pretty sure they could find it. The inmates have to have papers showing that they purchased/own the TVs. Where are your facts guaranteeing that taxpayers cover the costs?
“the budget has increased mostly because of increased employee costs.”
Is this supposed to be a surprise to anyone? I’d guess that their contract is tied to minimum wage and when min wage was increased by Pelosi’s congress, then the salary was increased for gov’t employees. In addition, when a salary rate increases, then their costs for fringe benefits also increase.
Given those scenarios, I’d guess again that the fully fringed labor cost for gov’t employees increased 25-30% from 2006 to 2013. No one should be surprised that this budget request is up....
I’m not against the proposed actions in the article, but I am sick of the “suprise” that we constantly seem to see.
“I read in the WSJ that there are half as many home fires and twice as many firefighters (national statistics) as 30 years ago.”
Firefighters are the one type of employee that I love paying for sitting around and doing nothing!
True but if those stats are correct, they are milking the system bigtime.
Unionized employees using the “public safety” wedge.
If governments had to operate like small business, we’d pay a lot less taxes.