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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 09/11/13
Sheriff ends jail
by CHRIS GRAYAn emergency declared to handle an overcrowding emergency at the Macomb County Jail has been called off.
Observer Staff Writer
County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham ended a state of emergency for the jail on Sept. 9 that was caused by the inmate population climbing over the facility's capacity of 1,238.
Macomb County judges and other law enforcement agencies worked with the sheriff's office to bring the capacity below 1,213, or 25 under capacity.
"Some people may have got time cut, went on a tether, or bond reductions," he said. "On the law enforcement side, appearance tickets were issued instead of incarceration."
State law gives Wickersham the capacity to declare an emergency after seven days of being above capacity. Wickersham ended the declaration six days after making the announcement that the jail population peaked at 1,268 inmates during a seven-day stretch.
An amount 25 under the maximum limit was sought in accordance with state statute to prevent overcrowding from happening again.
On Sept. 3, Wickersham notified Chief Circuit Court Judge John Foster, Chief District Court Judge Joseph Oster, Prosecutor Eric Smith, Board of Commissioners Chairperson David Flynn and County Executive Mark Hackel of the situation.
Wickersham and other officials had until Sept. 18 to reduce the population. If the number wasn't reached, Wickersham said inmates without violent offenses would have been released early.
Wickersham said this isn't the first time an overcrowding emergency was declared. In 2008 a packed jail caused the early release of 68 inmates.
County judges came up with a bed allocation plan in 2005, but in 2009 the jail had to close down an annex of the jail due to budget cuts, resulting in a loss of 200 beds.
"We had to re-adjust the numbers, and have been controlling the jail population since then," Wickersham said.
Wickersham said the personnel costs of re-opening the annex would be around $1.2 million, which doesn't include operational expenses.
During the overcrowding emergency, Wickersham said inmates were set up with cots and put in additional spaces such as the gymnasium. He said it didn't cost additional funding to deal with the extra inmates.
Wickersham said the overcrowding could be attributed to growth in Macomb County resulting in more criminals that need to be locked up.
"With growth comes population, and with population and commercial growth comes crime, and we've got to be able to have enough beds," he said.