National firm looking into jail improvements

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published August 10, 2018

 Design firm STV Inc. is working on a proposal for improvements, and a potential expansion, at the Macomb County Jail in Mount Clemens. A presentation to the Macomb County Department of Corrections board is expected at the end of the year.

Design firm STV Inc. is working on a proposal for improvements, and a potential expansion, at the Macomb County Jail in Mount Clemens. A presentation to the Macomb County Department of Corrections board is expected at the end of the year.

File photo by Julie Snyder

MOUNT CLEMENS — A national architectural and engineering design firm has been given the green light to develop a concept for potential improvements at the Macomb County Jail.

STV Inc. was selected by the Macomb County Department of Corrections board of directors to provide design and construction phase services in collaboration with Mount Clemens-based firm Partners in Architecture PLC.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said it’s too early to say what the two firms will come up with and present for consideration.

“They have been hired to look at our existing jail and propose what direction we should go in,” Wickersham said. “What can or can’t be used.”

The sheriff said constructing a completely new jail has not been discussed, though it could be the firm’s recommendation when it comes back to the board with its final ideas at the end of the year.

Wickersham said company representatives have been out to the jail for site reviews on several occasions, and there have been some workshops. Some areas that have been discussed for improvements include the jail’s assessment center programs and its mental and medical care facilities.

The Macomb County Jail 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.

STV representatives have looked into constructing a new jail, stating that it would cost between $150 million and $200 million and hold 1,500 beds.

“When creating these kinds of spaces, we try to look at the big picture and determine the overall needs of and goals for both the facility and its residents,” stated David Miles Ziskind, STV senior vice president and chief architect, in a press release. “Our designs employ humane methods that support a variety of programs ranging from treatment to education and community integration, all of which fall under the idea that the sentence is the punishment, not the facility.”

Plans for such a facility would include several options to improve existing operations, both by increasing efficiency and creating more humane environments, according to the release. The program may also include the construction of replacement buildings. Although planning is still in the early stages, issues addressed by the design team will include a new intake center and housing for detainees with mental health and substance abuse challenges.

In addition to serving as lead design architect, STV will provide structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection design services, as well as manage phasing, staging and scheduling.

The current jail on Elizabeth Road opened in 1954 with a capacity of a little more than 100 prisoners. New additions were added in the 1970s, increasing the jail’s capacity to 354 inmates.

Construction of an additional three floors increased capacity to 372 inmates, which was later increased to five floors and 480 cells. A $20 million addition was started in 1983, and then the state advanced money to add two floors — four levels with 216 cells — in exchange for housing state prisoners for a specific period of time. A 200-bed work release addition was later completed in the parking area of the jail.

Today, the jail regularly experiences overcrowding, resulting in the early release of some short-term and nonviolent inmates.