Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Visiting Issues at Lakeland Correctional Facility

Over the course of the years this facility has been opened to house prisoners, and prior to renovations that took place over the mid-90s with the addition of the pole barns being erected, this facility managed to accommodate the visiting population without incident.

Now that the number has increased by double bunking permanent structures and the added increase of prisoners into the pole barns, the population has grown to 1,452. That number was once 720 at its highest point when opened on July 2, 1986.

This facility's visiting room is allotted 49 people, which consists of both prisoners and the visiting public, and now it is supposed to accommodate the current 1,452 prisoners with an odd and even numbered visiting day. It is close to the smallest visiting room in the state, with the exception of Marquette Correctional Facility.

From the very beginning, the size of Lakeland's visiting room has been an issue, where plan after plan has been denied or merely set aside as being too costly and scrapped, regardless of who would be footing the cost.

It goes without saying that numerous renovations have taken place at this facility, and none of them are geared towards improving the current visiting room or choosing some alternate site which would accommodate a larger visiting room within the facility.

As it stands now, the prisoner population of this facility is constantly having their visits terminated due to over-crowding, regardless of the day (odd or even) on which visits take place.

The warden has expressed concerns regarding additional staff. She insists that additional staff are needed here, and even if that were true, it would do nothing to improve the visiting situation as it exists. As it stands, at any given time, you can find staff huddled together laughing and joking, feet atop the desk, drinking coffee, and reminiscing about the one that got away, or the love interest they missed out on.

We have requested waivers from the Governor's Office, allowing for the return of Tuesday and Wednesday visiting, with additional visiting hours to better serve the public and the prisoners alike. The response is that the warden has the final say, regardless of the issue at hand. This warden has no interest in providing proper visiting for the public, let alone the prisoners, at this facility. If it were up to her, video visiting would be the norm, and contact visiting would be eliminated altogether. This would prove less of a headache for her and her staff, thus providing additional time to sit around and earn a living playing on the computer and taking prisoner counts.

This facility is in need of the assistance from the general public in order to get anything done regarding a waiver as mentioned above, forcing the MDOC to spend the money to enlarge the current visiting room at Lakeland instead of all the other renovations taking place in order to deplete the funds on hand and entitle Lakeland to a new budget to spend come the new fiscal year.

This is an issue worth taking a stand upon, which is why I have reached out to you, the general public. Call your legislators and the MDOC for answers and help us make this issue a reality. Remember: WE THE PEOPLE (decide the outcome of all things as taxpayers of this state).