- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The number of prisoners housed in higher-security cells in Michigan’s prison system has plummeted over the last two decades, while the number of prisoners kept in less-expensive, low-security housing units has soared, according to data from the state Department of Corrections.

There were nearly 1,700 prisoners with the highest security rating in 1995, the Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/2fx2d6b ) reported. There were less than half as many inmates at that level by 2015.

“This tells us that the classification system is being manipulated, due to budget pressures in the Department of Corrections,” said Tom Tylutki, president of the Michigan Corrections Officers union.

The Michigan Corrections Officers union said pushing down security classifications is a dangerous practice that can lead to violent incidents.

After a Sept. 10 disturbance, about 250 former level 2 inmates at Kinross were sent to high-security prisons. Corrections officers described the incident as a prison riot, but the administration disagreed and said it fell short of that.

Corrections officers have claimed the reason behind the department pushing down prisoners’ security classifications is to save money, but spokesman Chris Gautz has denied that claim. He said some of the classification numbers are misleading because the way some prison beds are classified has changed.

“We do have more Level 1s,” Gautz said. “That isn’t a bad thing. It means we’re doing a good job of getting prisoners ready for parole. We’re getting them ready to go out the door.”

He said prison budgets do not play a role in the way prisoners are assessed.

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

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