The Michigan Department of Corrections is planning to close West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon County come March.

According to a release from the MDOC, the closure is to compensate for the significant decline in prison population statewide. In 2017, the state’s prison population dropped to below 40,000 for the first time in more than 20 years, MDOC reports. Michigan’s prison population peaked in March 2007 when it stood at 51,554.

Prison staff members were notified of the closure on Monday. The facility employs 174 people. MDOC says it will attempt to absorb as many staff members as possible to current vacancies throughout the system. Many may find jobs at two other

state prisons in Muskegon County.

"We also have around 100 vacancies in Ionia," said Chris Gautz, M.D.O.C. spokesman. "We have a good number of staff who actually live either in Ionia or Kent County that work here."

West Shoreline's 1280 beds are nearly full. Work begins now to reassign the level one minimum security prisoners.

"We are going to be working to figure out what is the best place for all those prisoners to go to," Gautz said.

West Shoreline was built as a temporary prison.

Age of the facility is just one of many factors the state considered when reaching a decision.

"Our prison population has been declining," Gautz said. "So that is a good thing for taxpayers."

The Michigan Corrections Organization provided this statement on the closure:

It’s unfortunate for corrections officers any time a prison closure is announced, because their lives are affected so deeply. A closure is a time of uncertainty and stress for officers because their employment, work location, living arrangements, childcare, and other critical aspects of day-to-day life are made uncertain. We know it is a difficult process, but like MCO has done in the past, we will work to ensure the West Shoreline closure goes as smoothly as it possibly can. All these details that impact officers’ lives must be sorted out, according to MDOC and MCO protocol, in the coming weeks. MCO will keep members updated every step of the way.

West Shoreline was built in 1987 -- it houses 1,280 prisoners. It will close on March 24.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email, visit our Facebook page or Twitter