A look back--where were you in 1980?

1980s officers

In 1980 staffing for the Michigan Department of Corrections totalled 4, 921. There were nine prisons. Nearly a quarter of a century later, the department has evolved into a workforce of 17,000 overseeing close to 50,000 inmates housed in 43 prisons, 10 camps and the Special Alternative Incarceration program.

The budget in the 1979-80 fiscal year was $172 million. Today it’s $1.7 billion. However, the 1980s experienced its own


budget woes when in 1981 three major riots cost the State more then $9 million in damages and other losses at the Michigan Reformatory, the State Prison of Southern Michigan and the Marquette Branch Prison.

Crowding was considered the major controlling factor in the operation of the department during the 1980s. As a result, the Prison Overcrowding Emergency Powers Act went into effect in 1981 allowing the early release of prisoners in an effort to alleviate the problem.

However, three years later, in reaction to the deaths of a police officer and a citizen at the hands of a parolee and a resident of a halfway house, Governor James J. Blanchard refused to issue any more emergency declarations under the Emergency Powers Act and called for a massive prison construction project to meet the needs of the department.

The times were changing in the 1980s. Not only was it a period of tremendous growth, but the face of the corrections officer was changing. In the summer of 1983, women corrections officers at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, the Michigan Reformatory at Ionia and Marquette Branch Prison worked for the first time in housing units at those prisons.

A federal court had ruled earlier that women should not be barred from such duties and ordered the department to compensate women who had been restricted from this duty in the past and who had been denied promotions because of their inability to earn this type of experience. The women officers were given extra training and their movement into the living units at these prisons proceeded without incident.



The State Corrections Commission still ran the department and in 1984 appointed Robert Brown Jr. as the new Director, replacing former Director Perry Johnson.

Also in 1984, the first case of aids showed up in the prison system at MTU. The first prisoner died of AIDS on August 14, 1985.

In 1986 the department suffered two hostage takings, both at Huron Valley Men's Facility. The first began on January 7 and involved a female corrections officer who was held hostage for 10 hours. She was unharmed and rescued by the Michigan State Police.The second incident, on January 16, lasted 30 hours and involved two prisoners who took hostage a kitchen supervisor, a corrections officer and an inmate.

That same year, 1986, the Duane L. Waters Hospital opened at the State Prison of Southern Michigan. It was

Prisons opened in the 1980s Facility: 1980

Phoenix Correctional Facility: 1980

Huron Valley Men’s Facility: 1981

Crane Women’s Facility: 1985

Camp Tuscola: 1985

Ionia Temporary: 1985

Lakeland Facilty: 1985

Cotton Regional: 1985

Western Wayne: 1985

Scott Regional: 1986

Carson City Temporary: 1987

Ionia Maximum: 1987

Thumb Regional Facility: 1987

Egeler Facility: 1988

Chippewa Temporary: 1989

Hiawatha Temporary: 1989

Adrian Temporary: 1989

Brooks Regional: 1989

Carson City Regional: 1989

Chippewa Regional: 1989

Camp Koehler: 1989


believed to be the first hospital in the United States designed and built solely as a prison hospital.

The death of two corrections officers at the State Prison of Southern Michigan made 1987 a tragic year for the department. Josephine McCallum died in March followed in December by Officer Jack Budd who was stabbed to death in the segregation unit

Also in 1987 Disciplinary Credits replaced Good Time and in that same year Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility opened.The following year, plans were announced to convert the prison to a super max modeled after a federal prison in Marion, Illinois.

On the legislative front, Senate Bill 15 was signed into law in 1989. It attempted to implement the 1988 program which limited personal property and prohibited personal clothing in Levels IV, V and VI. However, the department was unable to put this new policy into effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit which had been filed in response to the initial program.

These difficulties were also blamed for delay of the super max conversion since limits to personal property of higher security level prisoners was an integral part of the super max program No one in 1988 could have imagined that the lawsuit would have snowballed and remained in the courts for 15 years.

In 1988 random drug testing began inside the prisons. Results seemed to indicate that the problem of drug usage in prisons was less than the public's perception of it.


Warden Pamela Withrow was the first woman in Michigan to supervise a men’s prison camp, Camp Brighton, in 1978. Three years later, she gained appointment as the administrative assistant to the warden at the State Prison of Southern Michigan and later was the first woman assistant deputy warden there. In 1983 Withrow was named as the first woman warden at a prison housing men—the Michigan Dunes Correctional Facility near Holland. She later became warden at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. Warden Withrow retired in June of 2001.

Michigan Department of Corrections FYI 02-05-04