Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Michigan Deal Goes South: Too Expensive for California

California's inmates will not be shipped to Michigan, the Detroit News reports. The reason? Michigan is too expensive.

Michigan bid too high on the daily rate it would charge to care for prisoners at either the Standish or Muskegon facilities -- and won't get a contract at either facility, said Seth Unger, press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Michigan would have charged $89 per day, per prisoner, and that didn't include medical care, Unger said.

"Our average is $63 at other facilities ,and includes medical care", Unger said of other arrangements with privately run prisons in Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee that hold California inmates. "It's also the remoteness of the facilities."

Here's the letter sent by Secretary Cate, rejecting the offer.

While these days, our first, second, and third concerns pertain to our wallets, there are various other problematic issues with "exporting" inmates. One such concern is that the distance from family and friends would hinder visitation and contact with the outside world, which is already compromised by the locations of California facilities. The other concern, which the Plata/Coleman panel underscored in their decision, is the concern about the level of care, particularly health care, available to prisoners in other states.

Also, while not an immediate, practical issue, inmate transfers to other states are a stark illustration of the distance - physical and mental - of the public from the invisible realm of prisons. The economic crisis, as well as the Plata/Coleman decision, has significantly increased the visibility of prison-related issues, which is an important step on the way to remedy the crisis. Even if inmates are sent away, they do not cease to be the state's problem; forgetting them is a trap that policymakers would be well advised to avoid.

Addendum: I wonder what it's like for a Californian to do time at a Tennessee private facility. If you, or someone you know, is or has been in such a predicament, please comment and enlighten us.

props to Jerry Jarvis for keeping us updated.

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