State Rep. Sarah Lightner today led the Michigan House in approving a plan to create a Corrections Employee Wellness Board to ensure the men and women who work in Michigan’s prison system have access to mental health support and other wellness programs.
Lightner, of Springport, said studies show high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among prison workers. In 2020, the Michigan Department of Corrections received 162 contacts related to staff with the potential to commit self-harm or suicide.
“Corrections officers are the unsung heroes of law enforcement, and these brave individuals often suffer from many challenges – including mental health issues – as a result of the responsibilities they face each day,” Lightner said. “Many residents of my district are corrections officers or have one in their immediate family. I have heard time and again the struggles they deal with on a daily basis. The job itself is undoubtedly tough – but to top it off, there is an extreme lack of trust in the department.
“Corrections officers have a constant feeling that their employer is not on their side, the information they share is not confidential, and that they are ultimately viewed as replaceable – not as a vital part of our state. We need to do better.”
Lightner’s plan, House Bills 4467-68, would create the Corrections Employee Wellness Board to operate independently from the Department of Corrections. The six-member board would include at least one independent mental health expert and one corrections employee who works directly with prisoners.
The board would be tasked with evaluating the wellness services offered by the department and offer areas of improvement, setting tangible metrics and goals for programs, and creating a layer of transparency by producing an annual report on the usage of the department’s wellness programs.
“These bills move Michigan in the right direction by providing a layer of oversight to this process, ensuring that corrections employees are confidentially provided the services they need, and preventing the MDOC from policing itself on this issue,” Lightner said.
The plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration.
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