States closing or consolidating prisons face logistical issues,says the Wall Street Journal, citing the case of Michigan. Inmates there on average serve 127 percent of their court-ordered minimum sentences, well beyond the sentences of inmates in other states that offer parole, says the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The state last year spent $2 billion on prisons, and one third of state employees work for the department of corrections, which is among the highest percentage in the nation. With the collapse of the auto industry, the pressure to pare these costs is high.
In Michigan, which is cutting its inmate totals by 4,000 this year, the Journal describes how one prison holding everyone from burglars to second-degree murderers, dispersed its inmates to other facilities. Before inmates could be moved, staff had to consider details like where their co-defendants were located. Some prisoners had testified against co-defendants, or vice versa, and there was bad blood. Gang affiliations also had to be taken into account; wardens didn’t want rival gang members ending up in the same place, or worse, cell block. Medical needs and escape histories were factored in, too.