Prisoner advocates say inmates at the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti are living in overcrowded conditions.
Natalie Holbrook of the American Friends Service Committee says the prison’s capacity is around 1,800 inmates, but as of October 2,200 prisoners are housed at Huron Valley.
She says hundreds of current and former inmates have told the AFSC that bunk overcrowding, long lines for food and medication, and staff shortages are growing problems at the prison.
“It also means that there’s less access to programs and that staff are overworked. It [overcrowding] creates a climate that is stressful and we believe that the climate is becoming more stressful over the last many years.”
Dayrooms, offices, and food storage areas are being converted to house prisoners instead, Holbrook says.
"[Inmates say] they can’t get space in the dayroom. That’s a place where you can go and relax and congregate and get out of cell. [And to] have some mental health space, if you want.”
Chris Gautz is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He said in a statement to WEMU that Huron Valley has the space needed to house an increasing female prisoner population in the state.
The Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility is a well run, professional facility that has the space it needs to house the growing number of prisoners.
We have converted spaces to house additional prisoners in several of our housing units, as well as renovating another space that will house approximately 100 prisoners. Like every other state, Michigan is experiencing an increase in the female prison population, and we have no control over the rising number of women the courts are sending to us. (The increase is largely due to drug-related crimes.) The area we do control is when prisoners are released on parole and our parole approval rate for women is about 90 percent. We are also refocusing our efforts on the state's probation population, which we also monitor in the community. Our goal is to provide resources and attention on that population in the hopes that they successfully complete their probation and do not re-offend, or commit another crime that might send them to prison.
Gautz visited the prison Monday. He said Huron Valley isn't overcrowded because the conversion of dayrooms, offices, and storage areas into inmate bunks has increased the facility's capacity.
- Amanda LeClaire is an assignment reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact her at 734.487.3363 or email her: firstname.lastname@example.org