Macomb County Board of Commissioners members listen to a presentation by Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham June 19 in Mount Clemens. A request was made for the board to approve a 1,518-bed, $371 million new jail project.

Macomb County Board of Commissioners members listen to a presentation by Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham June 19 in Mount Clemens. A request was made for the board to approve a 1,518-bed, $371 million new jail project.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Macomb County Board of Commissioners considers millage for new jail

Pretrial services, direct supervision highlights of facility

By: Alex Szwarc, Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 21, 2019

 The board was shown an image of the new proposed Macomb County Jail.

The board was shown an image of the new proposed Macomb County Jail.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Macomb County officials presented the Board of Commissioners with a millage proposal for a new jail June 19.

A Joint Records and Public Safety/Government Oversight Committee meeting was held for the Office of the County Executive to ask the board to approve a 1,518-bed, $371 million new jail project, contingent on funding approval.

The presentation included project goals and planning process, a schematic design overview, an estimated project cost, estimated staffing, and potential health care cost avoidance.

Project consultant Jim Robertson said recommendations from the Macomb County criminal justice master plan focused on a central booking and assessment process, and a full-service pretrial services program.

“Those two programs were meant to focus on the front-end activity that occurs after a person is arrested,” he said. “For the new facility, we looked at deficiencies in the types of beds in the current facility. I think it’s fair to say the current building does not meet the current needs of the inmate population and doesn’t support the recommendations of the criminal justice master plan.”

The funding mechanism recommended is a 21-year, 0.98-mill county tax: 0.78 mill would fund the $371 million proposed new jail, and 0.2 mill would support the operation and personnel costs associated with it.

For a home worth $150,000, 0.98 mill would cost $73.50 per year for just over two decades.

If the millage is placed on the November ballot and voters approve it, the funds would be used to repay a bond issued by Macomb County to pay for the proposed new jail project.

Macomb County Commissioner Rob Leonetti said the board understands the need for a new jail in regard to pretrial services and direct supervision, two major components of the project.

“Direct supervision is where we have correction officers among the inmates, along the theory of when the teacher is in the room, they better behave,” Leonetti said.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the Board of Commissioners was first approached for funding in 2005.

“They agreed that it was needed, but it never moved forward because of the funding issues,” he said. “They agreed the county needed to do something (about the aging jail), but they couldn’t seek the funding.”

The Macomb County Jail, on Elizabeth Road in Mount Clemens, currently has a capacity of 1,238 beds. The jail houses pretrial detainees, as well as prisoners sentenced to one year or less. Many of the programs at the jail assist in providing counseling services and life skills aimed at reducing recidivism.

To begin his presentation, Wickersham said commissioners are being asked to make one of their toughest decisions as commissioners.

Mike Malone, a principal at Partners in Architecture, shared images of the proposed site, which would be located just west of the current jail, and he described a building floor diagram.

“Since February, architects eliminated a floor from the design, decreasing overall height and saving some serious dollars,” Malone said.

The diagram shows eight floors: intake/release and a lobby on the first floor, a medical and mental health floor, female housing on one floor, and five floors for male housing.

Plans call for enhanced on-site health care, with a full health clinic.

The jail was built in 1954 with a capacity of a little more than 100 inmates. Due to the increasing population in Macomb County, the average enrollment per day in the 1960s increased to 150. New additions were added in the 1970s, including construction of the $3.5 million rehabilitation center. According to sheriff’s records, the 40,000-square-foot jail addition was built to house 104 minimum-security inmates in single-person cells and helped increase its total capacity to 354 inmates.

The jail’s capacity is 1,218, with 959 inmates currently in jail. In the last six months, Wickersham said, there’s been an inmate decline.

He described direct supervision as when correctional officers are integrated with inmates.

“Incidents happen when the officer leaves the facility and the inmate knows he’s not coming back,” he said. “Here, the officer never leaves.”

Robertson said there is an operational issue with merely having cameras on inmates in cells — all cameras do is observe behavior, not manage and control it.

“Cameras merely identify the behavior; staff still have to respond,” he said. “What direct supervision does is gets the staff there sooner and allows the officer to be in charge of a housing unit.”

As part of the new jail proposal, if the facility housed 1,518 inmates, 108 additional personnel would be requested, including corrections deputies and pretrial specialists.

Malone said the estimated cost for the building is $281,783,000, with $9.4 million for site work.

No final decisions or recommendations were made by the board at the meeting. The board is expected to decide if the proposal will be on this year’s ballot by the end of July.

To view a video of the presentation, visit boc.macombgov.org.

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