Bumstead proposes bill to assist with GEO prison reopening

LANSING — Rep. Jon Bumstead, R- Newaygo, proposed a bill on April 16 to aid in the process of opening the GEO North Lake Correctional Facility in Lake County.

The proposed bill, House Bill 4467, was discussed in session on April 23 and would allow the facility to accept prisoners from higher security levels.

“As of now, the facility can take prisoners up to level four. This bill will raise it to level five,” explained Bumstead. “Part of the contract with GEO would require the North Lake Correctional Facility to be able to take level five prisoners.”

While GEO has stated it has no current plans to house prisoners above level four at the Lake County facility, an inability to house higher level prisoners could complicate negotiations when contracting with other state prison systems.

Lake County Commissioner Dan Sloan and Lake County Sheriff Robert Hilts traveled to Lansing for the April 23 session to address the state House and express the positive repercussions of reopening the North Lake Prison and assure those with doubts about the plan about how safe the facility would be.

“Growth like this generates momentum for the community,” said Hilts. “With the prison open again, it would mean $1.4 million in new tax revenue coming into the county without raising anyone’s taxes one cent. Some people may not want prisoners in their community, but I think the people of Lake County overwhelmingly want this to happen.”

The prison reopening is planned to move forward in July and would bring upwards of 600 prisoners to the facility from out of state while generating more than 150 new jobs in the county. Both of these numbers could grow as time goes on as the GEO facility has space for nearly 1,800 inmates.

Bumstead said if the bill does not pass, it would not doom the prison reopening, but it would complicate matters and jeopardize one of the contracts GEO currently is negotiating. He went on to say it appears there is little danger of this bill not passing.

“I’m very confident,” he remarked. “I’m not hearing anyone very opposed to this measure. I think most people realize it’s a win-win for the state.”

Bumstead is aiming for a House vote on April 30, which would then move the bill into the hands of the state Senate. After, it would need to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, who Bumstead said has expressed support for this initiative.

“This bill has been put on the fast track,” said Bumstead. “We don’t want a Lansing issue to slow down something that could be very good for west Michigan.”