Board of Commissioners approves funds for jail project

By: Dean Vaglia | C&G Newspapers | Published August 3, 2023


MACOMB COUNTY — The project to upgrade the Macomb County Jail’s mental health capabilities has been given the green light.

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved the use of over $228 million to pay for the jail upgrades at its July 20 meeting.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said.

Approved 11-2, the money for the project will come from different sources. The first $129 million is coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, in addition to $50 million in state funds and $49 million in county general fund money. A major aspect of getting the board’s approval was being able to finance the jail without going into debt, bonding out the project or creating new taxes.

“We just needed a clear view of the costs,” Macomb County Board Chair Don Brown said.

For Hackel’s part, getting the majority of the board’s approval was a matter of educating them on the project. The project will create a new intake center to screen inmates for mental health and substance abuse issues. Those flagged for issues will be able to receive more direct treatment than currently provided via a diversion center. Jail capacity will be increased from 1,034 beds to 1,218, and 108 more medical and mental health intake beds will be added for a total of 162.

Brown is excited about how the project could benefit Macomb County residents, particularly those who have to directly use it.

“It’s going to enable us to break the cycle for some who have been using the jail as a revolving door,” Brown said. “They get arrested for some drug or alcohol crime, they come in the jail, they get adjusted and are ultimately released to create another problem again because they repeat the same things. We’re going to try to break that cycle by diverting them to get them the mental health or drug or addiction treatment they need instead of locking them up in the jail, ahead of time. We know it will reduce the number of people held in the jail.”

The project funds will be controlled by the board while the executive’s office will handle the project day-by-day. While Hackel does not expect shovels to break ground for another year and a half, the board approved Partners in Architecture to design and engineer the project for $10.4 million. Hackel hinted that universities have been in contact for study opportunities once the project is complete.

“There’s some universities — I won’t mention who yet because there are no agreements — that are very interested in this from a study perspective; what kind of impact does something like this have on mental health and abuse in these communities,” Hackel said. “We’re extremely excited about that.”