BALDWIN, Mich. — When Michigan’s North Lake Detention Facility stopped housing youthful offenders five years ago, the tiny city of Baldwin lost its largest employer, the tax base shrunk and a number of restaurants and stores closed. The county’s unemployment rate hit 20 percent earlier this year.
Residents and officials in Baldwin are now hoping that a private prison contract involving inmates from California will help revitalize the areas economy. California prison officials have signed a $60 million-a-year contract with The GEO Group to reopen North Lake Correctional Facility, which will house the inmates at the former Michigan Youth Correctional Facility in Baldwin.
Officials are hopeful that 500 new prison jobs could be added by 2014. The GEO Group estimates that total payroll and other labor costs will hit about $26 million once the prison is full, while local expenditures will be about $8.5 million.