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Prison privatization at issue in Michigan
A prison privatization bill that aims to lighten the state's giant corrections budget is being held up in Michigan's Republican-controlled House.
HB 5174 would authorize the Department of Corrections to privatize corrections facilities, but only if the private prisons operate at a 10 percent cost savings. Privatization has general support amongst Michigan Republicans, but Democrats along with a small contingent of Republican legislators are leading efforts to block the bill's progression. Most of the Republican opposition have prisons in their districts and fear the economic repercussions of closing state-run facilities. Unions similarly see private prisons as an economic threat, and have lobbied heavily against privatization efforts.
As I argued last week, this sort of thinking is wrongheaded. Locking people up shouldn't be a jobs program for state employees and unions; and viewing it as such creates perverse incentives. Costs must be reduced, and budgets must be cut, if the state is to correct its unsustainable financial course. Those cuts have to come from somewhere and the Department of Corrections is a perfect place to start.
Michigan has one of the most expensive correctional systems in the nation. Its budget has remained bloated despite falling prison populations. Despite these facts, unions and supportive legislators balk at efforts to reduce costs.
When groups block policies out of narrow self-interest it is taxpayers who pay for it in the end.