North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan, the prison owned by GEO Group will not renew their contract with the Vermont Department of Corrections due to end in June of 2017. Currently, around 200 of the 370 prisoners originally sent to the Lake County facility in June of 2015 remain at the facility that can house 2000. Every day GEO Group keeps the prison in operation, the for-profit company loses money.
In May of 2015, the prison promised Baldwin that 1700 prisoners would be housed in the prison by October of 2015, thanks to two new contracts with Vermont and Washington State’s Departments of Corrections. These contracts would ensure full-time employment for local people, and would last for a minimum of two years, with the potential for renewal as long as these states needed to house prisoners at NLCF. By June, half of the prisoners Vermont promised arrived at the prison. The 1000 prisoners from Washington State never arrived, despite promises to send them in October, then some time in the spring of 2016. By October of 2015, the layoffs began.
Contract negotiations with other states never materialized, and GEO Group also proposed renting the prison to the Michigan Department of Corrections in April of 2016.
Stocks tumbled for GEO Group in August of 2016 when the Federal Government announced they would end their contracts with private prisons. Another for-profit prison company, Corrections Corporation of America also suffered when their stock values dived from the announcement.
The best thing that could happen for Lake County and the state of Michigan would be for the Michigan DOC to purchase the North Lake property completely from GEO Group and use the modern facility to close down older prisons in the state. GEO can’t keep the facility open, and the county doesn’t need the burden of a 2000 bed prison sitting empty. Whether this will happen in Michigan right now, with the Republicans still entrenched in all branches of state government and hostile to anything but for-profit, low quality contracting to fulfill the state’s needs is conservatively a wild card. What Michigan must do however is tell GEO Group three strikes you’re out. They failed to keep the prison open, and it’s time to come up with a solution that benefits everyone, not just another corporate entity with no ties or loyalty to the state.