Vermont plans to shift prisoners to Michigan

Detroit News staff and wire reports

The Vermont Department of Corrections says the state’s prison inmates being housed out of state are going to be moved to Michigan.

The department said Tuesday it had signed a contract with the GEO Group to house the inmates at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.

Vermont is housing 319 inmates at facilities in Kentucky and Arizona under a contract that expires June 20. The department said it will begin transferring the inmates to Michigan soon.

In early May, the Michigan House voted 57-53 to allow Florida-based private prisoner operator GEO Group to house prisoners up to Level V — the highest security designation for prisons — at its prison in Lake County.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 Tuesday in favor of the legislation after holding a hearing on House Bill 4467, said Sen. Rick Jones, the committee chairman.

Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, and Sen. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, voted no, Jones said.

Asked if he has any concerns about the private prison housing the most dangerous inmates, Jones replied: “Absolutely none.”

“It’s very secure and safe,” Jones said. “The prison is well built and should be utilized.

Jones said the full Senate could vote on the bill as early as next week.

The Senate would need to approve the legislation and Gov. Rick Snyder would have to sign it into law for the Vermont prisoner move to occur.

GEO Group has been trying to reopen its 1,740-bed North Lake Correctional Facility since 2005, when the state of Michigan ended its contract with the company to house juvenile offenders at the facility, formerly known as a “punk prison.”

In 2011, GEO Group had a contract to house California prisoners that fizzled.

The new, two-year, $30.4 million contract with GEO will save the state of Vermont about $2,055 per inmate per year. The state says GEO will provide “comprehensive correctional management services,” including offender rehabilitation programs.

For years Vermont has sent a number of inmates to out-of-state facilities to alleviate overcrowding in the state’s prisons.

Detroit News Staff Writer Chad Livengood and The Associated Press contributed.