LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – State Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport) announced on Tuesday that she had sent a letter to the Michigan Auditor General requesting a thorough review of “inexcusable staffing shortages and alleged violations of federal and state labor regulations within the Michigan Department of Corrections.”
Lightner represents Jackson County which is home to several state prisons and a large population of corrections employees.
Lightner says in a press release, “Over the past several months, I have received very concerning reports from corrections employees about critically low staffing levels and other issues that seem to violate state and federal labor laws. I am deeply concerned about the well-being of our state employees. These claims must be investigated.”
She goes on to say, “Given the gravity of these claims and the potential implications they could have on the safety and well-being of staff and inmates, I believe it is essential to conduct an unbiased and thorough investigation into these matters. As such, I respectfully request that the Michigan Office of Auditor General initiate an independent audit of the Michigan Department of Corrections to examine the accuracy of these claims and determine whether any legislative action or policy changes are necessary to address them effectively.”
Lightner’s letter calls upon Auditor General Doug Ringler to investigate claims including:
Short staffing: Employees from multiple prisons have reported that staffing levels have reached critical lows, resulting in safety risks for both the inmates and staff members. This shortage of staff is detrimental to maintaining a secure and humane correctional environment. Moreover, it results in overworking correctional officers, which eventually takes a toll on their mental well-being and personal lives.
- Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Several employees claim to have faced retaliation or adverse actions after utilizing their rights under FMLA. Such actions, if true, not only infringe upon the employees’ rights but also create an atmosphere of fear and reluctance to take necessary medical leave.
- Violations of the 32-hour mandatory overtime rule: Reports have suggested that prison staff are being subjected to excessive mandatory overtime, exceeding the 32-hour limit set forth by state law. This practice can lead to burnout, decreased morale, and potential lapses in security and safety.
Michigan News Source reached out to the Auditor General’s office and was told that they will carefully review Lightner’s concerns and evaluate her request.