Doors still open to out-of-state inmates

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

Associated Press Writer

LANSING (AP) -- Michigan still is in the hunt for federal and out-of-state inmates to fill its shuttered prisons -- just not Guantanamo detainees, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said this week.

The state hopes Pennsylvania will send some of its inmates to Michigan, the Democratic governor told reporters. Michigan also is in talks with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and also will try again to get California to send inmates its way.

Earlier this summer, the state prison in Standish, 145 miles north of Detroit, was being considered as a possible site to house suspected terrorists now being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Federal officials toured the prison in August. But they never entered into negotiations with Granholm or the Michigan Department of Corrections on using the site.

In a plan outlined Tuesday, President Barack Obama ordered the federal government to acquire an underused state prison in rural Illinois to be the new home for a limited number of Guantanamo suspects.

Granholm said she wasn't surprised Michigan no longer was being considered by federal officials.

"They never came back and answered (my questions) or even engaged in a conversation with me," she said this week. "We never made a formal proposal."

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and a 2010 Michigan gubernatorial candidate from Holland, said he's glad the detainees aren't coming to Michigan.

But he doesn't want them in Illinois, either.

The White House has "gotten much better at the process of how they're going to cram this down the throats of local citizens who, if they had the facts, I believe wouldn't want it," Hoekstra told The Associated Press. "We were able to stop it in Michigan. ... We've got ways we can maybe influence this decision."

Many Standish officials who wanted to keep the prison open were unhappy with the White House decision. They're feeling the economic fallout since the prison closed Oct. 31, because the prison accounted for 25 percent of the town's local water-sewer budget and 45 percent of the general fund budget.

About 100 of the 340 prison staff were laid off, and those who kept their jobs transferred to other prisons -- a move that harmed local businesses.

"It was our feeling and the feeling of the council, especially when they talked to individuals or small groups in the community, that most people were in favor of the detainees coming here," city manager Michael Moran said. "A majority of our community are in fact disappointed that it did not occur."

But the prison still could reopen. Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said Michigan is one of several states Pennsylvania might choose to house lower-level security prisoners in the Standish prison. Granholm has twice spoken about the matter with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

"We expect to hear something from Pennsylvania any day," Marlan said.

Another possibility being discussed with Obama administration officials is for the prison to be taken over by the federal government to house federal inmates.

The state also plans to talk again with California officials about sending some inmates here, Marlan said. In mid-July, California officials toured prisons in Standish and Muskegon, near Lake Michigan. But they decided Michigan was asking too much money and didn't meet their requirements.

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Associated Press Writer John Flesher in Traverse City contributed to this report.

Published: Tue, Dec 22, 2009

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