Making The Move To The Michigan Wilderness As A Corrections Officer, by M.M.

My wife and I are originally from the northeastern U.S. Our particular area, which had consisted primarily of farmland and small towns while we were growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, increased in population by about 20% between the years 2000 and 2010. The region had become noticeably over-developed, with many corn fields and woods being sacrificed for housing developments and strip malls, and it had become busy to the point that driving during daytime hours involved more waiting in line than actual driving. We like to experience the serenity of the outdoors, and I have always been a bit of a survivalist; the annoyance and constriction caused by this population explosion was becoming intolerable.

In 2010, we took up an offer to go camping on a friend’s wooded lot at the east end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). The UP is almost entirely northern forest with a scattering of farms and very small towns. We camped among the pine trees in an open-sided shelter I made out of a large mosquito net covered with a brown tarp. We cooked all our meals over an open fire. We kayaked, fished, and snorkeled in crystal-clear Lake Huron. We explored rivers stained with dark tannic acid, and we visited a beach on Lake Superior covered in colorful granite pebbles. The UP has the darkest night sky east of the Mississippi River and offers excellent stargazing; the band of the Milky Way was clearly visible, and we watched a meteor shower and saw twenty shooting stars in twenty minutes. This was just the kind of place where we needed to be.

In 2012, we went on another vacation to the Upper Peninsula. This time we stayed at a motel in the small town of Munising, which is located toward the center of the UP and on Lake Superior. Munising is located over two hours from the nearest interstate highway (I-75) and three hours from the nearest major city (Green Bay), which is still relatively small and quiet compared to the next nearest major city (Milwaukee). Milwaukee is almost five hours away from Munising. We kayaked along the base of 200-foot-tall cliffs and swam through tunnels and coves that had been eroded into the sandstone. We snorkeled at an old wooden shipwreck. We visited numerous waterfalls, hiked a ten-mile loop through the National Lakeshore along the top of the cliffs, and drove through Hiawatha National Forest for miles on gravel roads and dirt two-track trails. This was exactly where we wanted to live.

I began looking for employment in the UP, and I found that there was virtually no work available there. The population of the UP had actually decreased by about 5% over the course of 20 years, due to mines and paper mills closing down. I took a class to acquire a commercial driver’s license so I could apply for a truck-driving job in Green Bay. I got the job and headed 1000 miles away to the Midwest to be an over-the-road trucker. My wife drove out to meet me in the UP to look at houses. There were many reasonably priced properties available, and after viewing about twenty different hobby farms and hunting camps, we ended up choosing a nice homestead with a fairly new single-story house on a 20-acre wooded lot. This only cost us less than $150K, whereas a similar property in our hometown would have probably cost over half a million. Our homestead adjoins public forest owned by the state, and after several miles the state land ends and Hiawatha National Forest begins. It would be difficult to find any patch of land here that is more than a mile from a pond, lake, or stream, and you can’t get much farther than 40 minutes from either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior for a day at the beach. There is lots of wildlife in the woods and in the water here. We regularly have deer walking past our house, and we even had a visit from a black bear earlier this year!

We settled into our new home and loved being here, but most of my time was being spent away from home, driving the big-rig for 11 days at a time. A friend from church informed us about a job opportunity that I had never considered before; I didn’t even know that such a job existed in this area. He said I should apply to be a correction’s officer with the State of Michigan. I applied online and was contacted a short time later for an interview, which went very well. I put in my two-week notice with the trucking company, and then I attended and completed the 8-week Michigan Corrections Officer Training Academy. I have now been working at the prison for several years and things couldn’t be much better. I get to be off the road and go home every day. We get to live in a very rural and relatively remote wilderness location, have a sizeable vegetable garden, hunt and fish within minutes of our house, cut firewood to heat our house, target practice, hike, ski and snowshoe, and do essentially whatever we want to do anytime we like. I have caught northern pike, smallmouth bass, perch, and sunfish in the inland lakes. Large salmon and lake trout are frequently caught in Lake Superior. I do a lot of shooting, and I was able to build a 200-yard rifle range and 50-yard pistol range on our property. Michigan’s Concealed Pistol License is probably the best carry permit to have in the whole country. It is recognized by every state that allows concealed carry, which is 40 out of 50 states. If you are interested in leaving behind the craziness that is plaguing much of our nation, this job just might be your ticket to relocating to the wilderness. Being a corrections officer can definitely be a career, and it has excellent benefits. After my first year, I began making more than $20/hour. There is very little manual labor involved. Most of the work consists of observing and directing prisoners, locking and unlocking doors, applying and removing restraints, keeping records, and resolving prisoners’ problems. We are trained to use a variety of lethal and less-lethal weapons, including firearms, and a department-issued weapons permit will qualify you for a law-enforcement exemption on your state-issued Concealed Pistol License (allowing you to carry almost everywhere, including school and university property). Men and women of all sizes and ages (over 18) have been hired to work here. If interested, you will need to meet the following qualifications:

  • 18+ years old with possession of a High School Diploma or G.E.D.
  • 15 semester (or 23 term) college credit hours in Corrections, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Sociology, Family Relations, Guidance and Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, Social Work or Law Enforcement. These credits must be earned prior to submitting an application.
    Possession of 30 semester (or 45 term) college credits in any academic or degree prerequisite area meets the educational requirement. These credits must be earned prior to submitting an application.
    Any bachelor’s degree.
    Two years of satisfactory Corrections Officer employment at the state or federal prison level.
  • Pass a physical fitness test given by the Michigan Department of Corrections:
    1. 13 sit-ups in 30 seconds
    2. 17 push-ups in 60 seconds
    3. Continuously walking up and down steps, ranging up to 11 ¾”, for 6 minutes.
  • Have acceptable vision, hearing, and general good physical health.
  • Pass a drug screen.
  • Cannot be convicted of a felony or domestic violence or drug-related charges, or on misdemeanor probation, or have outstanding warrants. Applicants who have been convicted of any other misdemeanor are not eligible for employment until one year after satisfactory completion of any sentence imposed, including payment of fines and probation.

Basically, if you are an honest individual who can’t find work with your degree and you’re in decent physical condition, then you probably meet the qualifications to become a corrections officer!

The prison where I work– Alger Maximum Correctional Facility– is 25 years old, and many employees who were hired at or near the prison’s opening are now retiring or about to retire. During either your interview or your academy, the state will ask you for your top three choices of where you would like to work. If you ask for Alger, you are virtually guaranteed to work here. Then, you will be able to purchase and live year-round at your own wilderness retreat. Please contact a State of Michigan recruiter by following the links below. Several of us have made the move with no regrets. We hope to see you here soon!