Schmidt: Closure of Pugsley Correctional Facility shortsighted

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. – State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, issued the following statement on Tuesday, after it was announced the Pugsley Correctional Facility, located in Kingsley, is to be closed.

“I am very disappointed with the decision to close the Pugsley Correctional Facility. Unilaterally closing a prison to only save a few bucks in spite of all the benefits the facility provides to our community seems extremely shortsighted and does nothing to achieve our shared goal of reforming Michigan’s criminal justice system.

“Make no mistake: This decision will have a deep, residual impact. Pugsley employs hundreds of area residents who pay taxes here, have homes here, send their kids to school here, go shopping here, and more. There is no doubt that closing such a major employer in our community will hurt the Grand Traverse County economy, but it is also a move that will ripple throughout the surrounding communities in a part of our state that already faces a labor shortage.

“This is more than about a loss of jobs, as bad as that is. For example, several local area food banks will likely lose out on a beneficial program the prison helps run to provide 20,000 pounds of produce for the food banks each year. Importantly, also, will be the impact on the prison population itself.

“One of the key areas that we focus on when talking about criminal justice reform is that of rehabilitation. Preparing inmates for a return to life outside is vitally important, and Pugsley has done a great job in that effort as a Prisoner Reentry In-Reach Facility. Beyond traditional educational offerings, like Adult Basic Education, General Education Development, Business Education Technology and Building Trades, Pugsley also serves numerous northern Michigan counties with evidenced-based cognitive thinking courses. These courses help inmates overcome issues of violence, alcohol and substance abuse, mental health, parental support, and more. All of these great services are now in question.

“Camp Pugsley, which later became the Pugsley Correctional Facility we know today, has been an important part of northern Michigan for more than six decades. It is a place that offers the types of services we seek when looking to improve our state’s correctional system. Unfortunately, the governor’s administration doesn’t see it that way.”

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Senate adopts Schmidt resolution for AMBER Alert Awareness Week

Sen. Wayne Schmidt welcomed, from left, State Police Troopers Matthew Williams and Sgt. Timothy Fitzgerald, Michigan Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Karole White, and Government Relations Manager Elena Palombo to the Senate on Thursday, May 19.

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate adopted a resolution sponsored by Sen. Wayne Schmidt proclaiming May 15 through 21 as AMBER Alert Awareness Week in Michigan.

Michigan’s AMBER Alert system was the first statewide alert system of its kind to be launched in the U.S. Started in 2001 as a collaboration between the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB), Michigan State Police, Michigan Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, and the Michigan Department of Transportation, the system helps locate and recover abducted, endangered children within the state.

“The AMBER Alert system has leveraged the eyes and ears of millions of Michigan residents to find more than 350 children over the past 15 years,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “It’s truly been a lifesaver.”

The network is one of the best and most comprehensive in the nation, employing state-of-the-art technology to provide immediate information to the public during an active AMBER Alert.

The resolution also recognizes the important contributions of the partnering organizations that work to raise funds for the Michigan AMBER Alert Foundation, which financially supports the alert system.

“AMBER Alert is a very effective tool when you add the eyes and ears of radio and television audiences, electronic message boards and cell phone users to the list of individuals looking for an AMBER Alert victim,” said MAB President and CEO Karole White. “Some perpetrators just give up when they hear the AMBER Alert issued. This has been the case in several active AMBER Alerts issued in Michigan.

“Whether the return is from hearing the AMBER Alert or just the fear of the AMBER Alert, the result is the same: A child who was missing and endangered is reunited with their family. We thank Senator Schmidt for introducing Senate Resolution 178 to recognize the importance of the AMBER Alert program.”

Senate Resolution 178 can be read in its entirety on the Legislature website.

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National Police Week

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Public safety is one of the most important responsibilities of state government. When it comes to keeping our communities safe so we can go to school, work and enjoy time with our families in peace, we have a lot for which to thank our police officers.

They work long hours in sometimes dangerous places and situations, and they spend time away from their own loved ones. To help recognize and honor the service and sacrifices of our police officers, we observe National Police Week each May. This year, it is May 15 through May 21.

Police Week began in 1962 at the direction of President John F. Kennedy as a gathering of survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Over the years it has grown, and today, tens of thousands converge at our nation’s capital.

In Michigan, we do much to honor the lives of officers lost as well as survivors and those still in uniform. From the Michigan Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Lansing to honor the fallen, to increasing funding for our hardworking, dedicated police officers, we look out for the ones who look out for us.

I am proud to say that the Legislature has increased funding for our State Police force in recent years. For the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year Budget that the Senate recently approved, we voted to dedicate additional funding to increase the number of state police troopers.

But there is one area that needs attention: We need to do a better job supporting the spouses and children of officers killed in the line of duty. Last year I introduced a bill that would guarantee them health care benefits.

Under Senate Bill 218, which was approved by the Senate and is currently in the House of Representatives for consideration, the spouses and dependents of law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue squad members, or ambulance crew members who lose their lives as a result of their duties on the job would be provided health care coverage comparable to those of retired state police officers.

The debt we owe to those fallen officers cannot be fully repaid, but we can do something to support their families at a very small cost to the state. Providing health care coverage to the spouses and children of officers who die in the line of duty is a small token of our appreciation that will hopefully go a long way toward helping them.

As we observe National Police Week, take a moment to show your appreciation for all they do.

If you would like to learn more, visit policeweek.org.

Schmidt supports amendment for ‘Smart911’

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Wayne Schmidt voted in support of an amendment to the general government budget on Wednesday for a Smart911 system in Michigan.

Grand Traverse County first adopted the system in 2013 and the budget appropriation voted on in the Senate would help all counties adopt the system.

“A modern interconnected society requires smarter public safety,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Smart911 helps to achieve that by enabling residents to create personalized profiles to better help public safety officials with critical information in times of emergency.”

According to the service, Smart911 allows residents to provide additional information that 9-1-1 operators may need in order to assist during an emergency. When an emergency call is made from a phone registered with a Smart911 Safety Profile, the 9-1-1 system recognizes the phone number and automatically displays the supplied profile for the operator.

Profile information is provided by the registered user and can include information about family members, pets and vulnerable household members. Businesses also can provide information, including building floor plans and access codes. The emergency operator shares this information with the appropriate first responders.

“Grand Traverse County was the first in Michigan to adopt Smart911, and this budget appropriation will help bring the system statewide so all residents can participate,” Schmidt said.

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