Officials from the federal Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Bureau of Prisons toured the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility in rural northeast Michigan today. The site appears to be on the shortlist for housing Guantánamo detainees. The US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS, is the other likely candidate.
From Michigan’s perspective, which I’d agree with, the first choice is prisoners from other states. California is likely to send prisoners to Michigan but no deals have yet been finalized. Michigan offered prison beds to every state in the union. It seems California is a front-runner for Standish Max beds. Under a federal court order to cut 43,000 prisoners, California has 45 days to detail its plan, making Standish seem an even more likely choice. I just hope we get cash up front, considering California’s budget fiasco. Their IOUs won’t do Michigan any good.
As part of eliminating state budget deficits, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) ordered the closing of 8 more Michigan correctional facilities. Standish is one of those. With 17% unemployment in Arenac County, home of the prison, it’s no wonder townsfolk want to keep the prison open. With 350 employees, Standish Max is the area’s largest employer. “I’ll take the Guantanamo Bay people in a second, they’re all criminals and it keeps 350 people in jobs. (I’m) 100 percent for it,” said one Standish resident.
There is a fundamental—and significant—difference between those currently imprisoned at Standish Max and the detainees. Those at Gitmo are jihadists; extremists for whom every fiber of their being seeks the downfall of western civilization, starting with the Great Satan, the United States. These 200-odd fanatics are the worst of the worst; Guantánamo’s head count is down from over 700. The detainees need to be considered every bit as deranged as the worst sociopath you can imagine. Think 200 Hanibel Lectors in bucolic northeast Michigan.
Underscoring the risk, US Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-2), a Michigan gubernatorial candidate, requested to take local leaders to tour Gitmo. Hoekstra is opposed to moving the detainees to Michigan. Facilities at Guantánamo were built to house the terrorists. While Standish has not had any escapes in its 20 years, it might not be up to this threat. If one of these Islamists escapes from Standish Max, there’s nothing but open terrain and innocent people. Even if Gitmo suffered an escape, there’s no place to go.
As for jobs? Gitmo is a military facility staffed by military personnel. A federal takeover of Standish Max would likely yield some local jobs and local contracts for services. But the corrections officer jobs would be gone unless other states send prisoners to Standish.