Sen. Irwin Introduces Bill to Ban Private Prisons

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) today introduced a bill to ban privately owned prisons or detention centers in Michigan. Senate Bill 489 would prohibit the state from contracting with a private detention facility with the purpose of housing any person in the custody of the State of Michigan.  

“Prisons should not be run for profit, and their incentives are deeply insidious and contrary to our solemn responsibility to provide justice to all,” Sen. Irwin said. “These types of facilities make money from high incarceration rates and incentivize the prison’s revolving door, rather than reducing recidivism and improving public safety.” 

Michigan’s only private prison, North Lake Correctional Facility, reopened in 2019 after being awarded a 10-year, $370 million contract from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house non-citizens detained for immigration offenses. Around the country, private detention facilities have contracted with the federal government to house migrants who have entered along the southern border. This is seen as a booming economic opportunity to private prison companies as they benefit from President Trump’s immigration policies. 

Sen. Irwin’s legislation is designed prevent state contracts with private detention facilities.  

Recent studies suggest that Michigan’s crime rates have fallen, but county jail and prison populations have tripled. No statewide incarcerated-population database exists, making it difficult to identify the exact number of prisoners in Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed an Executive Order to create the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration to study the lack of data and make policy recommendations. 

“I am proud of the work that the state of Michigan has done to reduce crime over the past several years,” Sen. Irwin said. “This is the next step in ensuring that profiteers cannot take advantage of our taxpayers by mistreating our people.”  

Illinois became the first state to ban private detention centers in June 2019.

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