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The Geo Group’s North Lake Correctional Facility The Geo Group’s North Lake Correctional Facility IMAGE COURTESY GEO GROUP

Private prison in Lake County to close, again

BY Wednesday, April 26, 2017 10:19am

BALDWIN — An operator of private prisons plans to close its facility in Northern Michigan’s Lake County.

In a state filing April 19, Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group Inc. (NYSE: GEO) said it would “permanently close” the North Lake Correctional Facility, the only private prison facility in Michigan, after it chose not to renew a client contract.

Geo entered a $15 million contract with the Vermont Department of Corrections on May 20, 2015 to house up to 675 inmates at the medium- and maximum-security facility, according to a statement at the time.

The company opted not to renew its two-year contract because the Vermont agency transferred fewer than 300 inmates to the North Lake prison, according to a report in Montpelier-based VTDigger, a statewide nonprofit investigative journalism publication.

As a result of the closure of the Baldwin facility, 170 people will lose their jobs, Christopher Ryan, executive vice president of human resources for Geo, said in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act filing. The closure and the layoffs are expected to occur on June 20.

“This action is expected to be permanent as the entire facility will be closed,” Ryan wrote in the filing.

The closure is the latest in a long string of troubles for the Baldwin-based facility, which was built in 1999 at 1805 West 32nd St. with a capacity of 570 beds. Then-Gov. John Engler signed a 20-year contract with a predecessor to Geo Group for the former Michigan Youth Correctional Facility, at the time dubbed a “punk prison,” to brace for a wave of young violent super-offenders that never materialized.

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed funding for the prison in 2005, noting that the state was overspending to send lower-security prisoners to a maximum-security facility who could instead be housed at a state-run prison.

The prison initially closed that year, but Geo later expanded the facility in 2009 to 1,740 beds. The company signed a short-lived contract in 2010 to house inmates from California before shuttering the facility again.

After announcing the Vermont contract in May 2015, Geo also said it signed a five-year $24 million deal with with Washington Department of Corrections to house 1,000 inmates at the North Lake Correctional Facility.

A day after Geo issued a press release about the contract, the Washington DOC released a statement saying that it had “no current plans to utilize the contract with the GEO Group,” which was signed as part of its contingency planning process in case it experienced overcrowding.

The state never ended up sending inmates to Michigan, according to reports.

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