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Security An Issue In Prison Food Service Changes

LANSING (AP) - Maintaining security is an issue in privatization of services such as feeding prisoners as the state looks to cut millions of dollars from incarceration-related costs, the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections said.

Daniel Heyns told The Detroit News for an interview published Friday that he wants to meet the state's target for food service savings of $7 million, along with other savings for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. But he said he hopes there's flexibility on meeting those targets.

"Meals are extremely important to the stability of institutions," Heyns said. "You've got to proceed very carefully."

It costs the state $2.07 a day to provide prisoners with three meals, down from about $2.60 a year ago, department spokesman Russ Marlan said.

The department is preparing to ask for bids on meals, although only bids on operating the Cassidy Lake boot camp near Chelsea are required in the 2012 budget Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law, Marlan said. The department also is looking at ways to save about $2.5 million in the operation of prison stores.

Snyder wants to work with the department on reducing costs, but sees bids in all three areas as "an important first step," spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

Mel Grieshaber, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization union, said privatizing food services would mean extra security costs for the state. He said corrections workers who oversee prisoners making meals also currently provide security.

"I would give this director and this new department leadership a little breathing room," he said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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