Many inmates swear the prison building boom is a master plan to make money off them and create jobs, especially in the rural, mostly white areas where most prisons are, says Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Gerritt. Michigan state legislators have been arguing over whether to close a youth prison. The debate is about jobs, he says. Legislators might stick the state with an $18-million-a-year tab for a prison it doesn’t need. Gerritt says, “The so-called punk prison, run by a private, for-profit company, opened six years ago to handle an expected tsunami of young super predators. It never happened.”
Republicans want to close instead a prison in a Democratic area of the state. Gerritt says that facility is “generally well-managed and runs one of the country’s top prison GED programs.” The columnist opines that most state prisons should be in southeast Michigan, where most of the inmates come from. He says that prisons instead are usually built in remote areas, where they become a small community’s biggest source of recession-proof jobs. With nearly 50,000 people in prison, Michigan has one of the nation’s highest rates of incarceration and prison spending.