Imagine beginning your workday knowing that your shift will spent walking among convicted criminals, some of whom have committed unspeakable acts. Some of these inmates serve life sentences and have nothing but time to serve with nothing to lose, and you represent everything that is keeping them behind bars. This is just another day in the life of a Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) employee and may be part of why prisoner-to-guard ratios in Michigan facilities are among the nation's highest.

Related: What is the Leading Cause of Death in Michigan Prisons?

While my knowledge of the inner workings of prisons and jails is limited to fictional and reality series, I have a deep respect for the work done by the men and women of the MDOC. Their job is to protect the public, their co-workers, and the men and women in the custody of the state and federal government, all while constantly guarding their own lives.

Revealing Michigan's Prisoner-to-Guard Ratio

How Understaffed Are Michigan Prisons? New Research Revealed

According to the Marshall Project, state prison employment rates are 10% lower than in 2019. While many facilities around the country, including Michigan, released thousands of prisoners in 2020 to ease the spread of COVID within the system and ease population concerns, the inmate population is rebounding.

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Correctional facilities, including the MDOC, have launched recruiting campaigns to increase staffing numbers and lower the prisoner-to-correctional-officer ratio to more manageable levels.

How Understaffed Are Michigan Prisons? New Research Revealed

The Las Vegas law firm H&P Law examined data from all 50 states and released staffing ratios for each, with Michigan ranking 8th worst in the nation.  Matthew Pfau, a partner at H&P Law, commented on the findings: “Jailers and correctional officers perform a vital role in society, so it is concerning to hear of their immense workload in some states.

Related: PHOTOS 1952 Chaos Erupted in Jackson: Michigan State Prison Riot

“Making this data public is hopefully the first step towards relieving the pressure on the people who work in prisons across the country.”

How Understaffed Are America's Prisons? New Research Revealed

H&P Law examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2023 and the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2022 to determine the number of correctional officers and compare that to the number of prisoners in each state (Rhode Island data unavailable). Let's countdown to the state with the poorest staffing within prisons and jails.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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