Study: Macomb County Jail needs to expand, adapt
By Julie Snyder
Posted May 19, 2017
MOUNT CLEMENS — A national consulting firm told the Macomb County Board of Commissioners that the county jail needs some improvements if it wants to keep up with projected population increases.
Jim Robertson, of Voorhis/Robertson Justice Services LLC, and Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham on May 11 presented findings from the study that was approved by the Board of Commissioners last year to assess the needs of the jail and the entire criminal justice system in the county.
“If you do nothing and the county continues to grow and admissions continue as usual, in 2040 you could need 750 more beds,” said Robertson.
Robertson and his consultants pitched recommendations, including new annex floors with 274 new beds, and the hiring of an additional 29 correctional deputies and 19 staff members.
In the first part of the plan — the top two recommendations — which was completed at a cost of $240,000, Robertson said the jail and the criminal justice system need to create a centralized intake and processing facility where all arrestees are booked and processed.
He said the cutting-edge facility would provide a process to determine the public safety and personal risk of each individual, provide the appropriate space to manage the risk levels of each individual, and provide the appropriate staffing levels 24/7 to support those tasks. The county jail also needs to fund a full-service pretrial services program.
“The Macomb County Jail is a full-service jail,” Robertson said. “But your current facility has deficiencies for trying to manage human behavior and inmate behavior today.”
Wickersham said the cost to implement the recommendations is unknown, but he expects to have a cost estimate by the end of the year.
“Our goal is to develop the most safe and effective jail to manage public risk and supervise inmates that are remanded to the care and custody of the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.
“We need to determine hard costs,” he said, after which he will return to the Board of Commissioners with his findings.
His office also needs to identify funding sources, possibly through a bond or millage, as well as long-term personnel costs.
If the county doesn’t implement those top recommendations, it would likely need 2,457 jail beds in the future. The jail currently has 1,438 beds, 200 of which were cut years ago in an effort to save money.
This has resulted in a number of overcrowding emergencies in recent years. Wickersham said the Macomb County Jail had at least a dozen overcrowding issues from 2001 to 2004, which resulted in a similar study in 2005. There were overcrowding emergencies declared in 2013, 2014 and 2015, resulting in the release of nonviolent offenders.
The sheriff said that of the 1,200 inmates there daily, about 70 percent have drug- or alcohol-related problems.
Commissioner Robert Leonetti wondered “if we didn’t do the central intake system, we would be forced to spend a lot of money almost developing a whole other jail, in a sense, to house the beds that we would need.”
“What’s important to recognize is there is no zero-cost option,” said Robertson, a former longtime corrections officer. “You will spend money one way or the other … to manage the jail population.”
He concluded with saying that he hopes the study won’t fall to the wayside.
“It is intended to be a tool for the county,” Robertson said. “Not everybody is going to agree with what’s in that report, but there’s always room for conversation and discussion. I hope it doesn’t sit on a shelf, that the county embraces it. We hope that you embrace it and go forward.”
About the author
Staff Writer Julie Snyder covers Harrison Township, Mount Clemens, Macomb County, L’Anse Creuse Public Schools, and Mount Clemens Community Schools for the Journal. She has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2003, and attended the University of Toledo with degrees in journalism and photography. Julie has received several awards for her work in Arizona and Washington, including AP awards in Arizona for breaking news reporting and feature writing.
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