Corrections officers want Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to deploy the National Guard to address staffing shortages in Michigan prisons that create “dangerous working conditions” and safety issues for inmates.

Michigan Corrections Organization President Byron Osborn penned a letter to Whitmer last week following six years of requests for relief for overworked corrections officers that have largely gone unanswered.

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Osborn contends conditions have deteriorated since Whitmer took office, with prisoners “coddled at the expense of officer safety” and inmates taking advantage of “lax (Michigan Department of Corrections) policies on prisoner discipline, classification and use of segregation,” The Detroit News reports.

As it stands now, at least five state facilities, including three in the Upper Peninsula, have CO vacancy rates between 33% and 35%, Osborn told WLUC.

“That’s a staggering number of vacancies. These folks are being asked to just basically live at the prison and work these 16-hour days and that in turn exacerbates the problem because after a while, people start dropping off, they start resigning,” he said. “They’re taking other jobs, they’re choosing family life and their health over giving up this much time and energy to the Department of Corrections.”

Michigan currently employs over 5,000 corrections officers and forensic security assistants at 26 facilities, with another 1,000 open positions left unfilled. The years-long shortage is further exacerbated by a prison population that grew by 1% over the last year, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis cited by MLive.

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“The conditions I’ve described to you are real,” Osborn wrote to Whitmer. “If you are skeptical and wish to see for yourself, I’ll gladly escort you inside several of your prisons so you can speak directly with your corrections officers, not the administration, about the conditions. We’ve been seeking effective relief solutions from the Legislature and MDOC for years and are now to the point of desperation.”

The letter comes after Democrats blocked a MDOC request for $12 million in the recently approved state budget to spend on signing and retention bonuses for corrections officers, despite MDOC spending $112.6 million in overtime costs in fiscal year 2023, The News reports.

Democrats increased MDOC’s budget in their 2025 spending plan by a mere 0.2%.

“The new budget, which I opposed, doesn’t even offer signing and retention bonuses to fill vacancies and keep good, exhausted officers on the job,” state Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, told the news site. “Thankfully, some officers are voluntarily choosing to delay their own retirement even without bonuses, but that still doesn’t solve the problem.”

“We just feel like we’re out of options,” Osborn told The News. “To ask these people to keep working double shifts and live there just like the prisoners do is unacceptable and untenable.”

Whitmer didn’t bother to address questions about the situation from the media, with her office instead referring comment to MDOC, which promptly shut down the possibility of relief from the National Guard.

“The situation facing MDOC staff continues to be challenging, but the solution is not a temporary measure such as bringing in National Guard members who have not been trained to operate in this environment,” the department said in a statement cited by MLive.

Department officials acknowledged “high levels of both voluntary and mandated overtime,” and pointed the news site to efforts to hire more officers, and improve working conditions.

“These efforts have helped some facilities achieve staffing stability, while other sites continue to face staffing challenges,” the statement read.

Democrats in Lansing, meanwhile, are more focused on providing relief for prisoners than the officers tasked with supervising them.

State Rep. Kara Hope, D-Holt, chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, acknowledged the state has “a crisis on our hands” at MDOC, and pointed to legislation she alleges will shorten prison terms “without compromising public safety.”

“Michigan has longer minimum sentences than other states, and 51% of the prison population in black,” Hope said in a statement to The News. “We could work on resolving these glaring issues, which would help alleviate – if even a little – the MDOC staffing crisis.”

Detroit Democrat Sen. Stephanie Chang, chair of the upper chamber’s Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, contends “working conditions for our correctional officers is directly linked to conditions facing those incarcerated.”

“I am eager to work with the administration and MCO on solutions that promote safety and wellness,” she said.