December 20, 2014

Standish leaders begin ‘Prison Watch’ to dispel rumors

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STANDISH — Community leaders from Standish have begun a group designated to dispel rumors and inform the public about the Federal Bureau of Prison Officials and the future of the Standish Correctional Facility. The group is calling themselves Prison Watch.

Prison Watch consists of City Manager Mike Moran; Curt Hillman of the Standish Downtown Development Authority; Michael Snyder, district 3 county commissioner; Lincoln Township Supervisor David Hertzburg; Renee Reetz, Marvin Ittner, and Ruth Coldwell, of the Standish Chamber of Commerce; and Mayor Mark Winslow.

“Right after the (Guantanamo Bay) prisoner talk began last year, we started hearing rumors speculating about the Bureau of Prison Officials,” Moran said. “We decided that we ought to start a group and be proactive and stop these rumors.”

The first meeting was held Aug. 20 at the Pine River Golf Club in Standish.

“We have heard that there will be a no man’s land around the prison; M-61 would have to be rerouted, and that the feds would be taking homes,” he said. “None of that is true.”

Hillman said that the group wants to take a positive proactive approach.

“Lack of information is where these rumors get started,” he said. “We want to answer those questions and get the information out to everyone.”

Prison Watch is currently working on starting an information hotline, where people with questions or concerns may call to get answers.

“We will get a number out there soon,” Moran said.

He said that Prison Watch has already sent e-mails with information to prison officials.

“The St. Mary’s of Standish administration has sent them a (presentation) with information, and we also sent information from Standish-Sterling Central’s superintendent,” Moran said.

One rumor that was dispelled was that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has already made an offer to buy Standish Max.

“There is no offer on the table whatsoever,” Hillman said.

Moran said the Bureau of Prison Officials said that no one over the age of 36 can be hired at the prison and that a majority of former Standish Max employees are now working elsewhere.

“Many who were laid off (from Standish Max) have been reassigned to other prisons in the state,” he said.

Hillman said that three area community colleges have also expressed interest in starting programs to train future correction officers for the prison if it is purchased. Snyder said support like that has been forgotten in the debate over the possible sale of the prison.

“If the prison reopens, it will need support,” Snyder said. “Jobs will open around the area to help support the prison.”

Another question that has been lingering was about the state of water rates around Standish. Winslow said if the prison is populated with prisoners, rates could lower.

Hillman said that most people around the city support a purchase.

“I have found that most people support (a purchase) once they find out what is going on,” he said.

“There is an old saying that states, ‘A stream of truth can turn into a river of untruth,’” Snyder said.

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