By Carol Stiffler

The Newberry Correctional Facility only had 513 inmates at last report, about half of what its capacity allows.

Sources say inmates have been moved out of the prison in large groups, and they’re concerned the prison might be closing.

But prison spokesperson Chris Gautz said the reduction in population is being seen across the state, though not necessarily to the same extent as it is in Newberry.

“We have more than 5,000 fewer prisoners since before the pandemic around the state and so there clearly are going to be facilities that have fewer prisoners in them, and Newberry is one,” Gautz said. “For example, our women’s prison before the pandemic had more than 2,000 prisoners and today it has less than 1,600.”

Prison officials didn’t transfer inmates above the bridge during the height of the pandemic, Gautz said, to prevent overwhelming smaller U.P. hospitals in the event of a COVID spike.

A few dozen more prisoners are waiting to be transferred out of Newberry, released on parole, or discharged, Gautz said.

Gautz expects more to be transferred in soon.

Every prison community fears having its prison closed, Gautz said, but it doesn’t appear to be happening in Newberry at this moment.

“There are no plans at this moment for any closures and there are also no closures recommended in the governor’s budget which is nearing completion,” Gautz said.