- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility began limiting inmate access to prison day rooms this week.

The Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/1ZehNkL ) reports that several inmates and their family members tell the newspaper that due to overcrowding, inmates have been placed on “21-hour lockdowns,” beginning this past Monday.

State Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz confirmed Wednesday that access to the day rooms - which contain grooming areas, kiosks with links to e-mail and other amenities - is now limited to three hours per prisoner, per day. But he denies talk that inmates have been restricted to their cells when they are not in the day rooms.

Officials said the population at the prison has risen about 16 percent from 1,900 in 2011 to about 2,200 this October. In response, the department says four former TV rooms now house a total of 56 prisoners and 44 former offices now house 306 inmates.

Gautz said the new restrictions are not due to overcrowding, but are a response to certain prisoners dominating access to the day rooms.

“It could very well be that the people who are complaining are the ones who used to profit from the old system,” Gautz said.

But Doug Tjapkes, president of the advocacy group Humanity for Prisoners in Grand Haven, said the competition for access to day rooms is clearly a symptom of overcrowding.

“If this were happening at a men’s facility, we would be seeing and hearing serious repercussions by now,” Tjapkes said. “This is because of overcrowding.”

Gautz said that when the inmates are not in the day room they can walk in the yard or use other facilities.

“They are not confined to their cells,” he said.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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