By Andrew Keller, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
MIDLAND COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -
Being a corrections officer isn't easy. It's a high-stress job that tests will and demands teamwork.
"You come here to go home, come here to be safe. You don't know what's going to happen, and some days, there are dangerous situations that come up," said Midland Co. Jail Shift Supervisor Paul Close.
Close said the situation in Midland County Jail right now is more dangerous for officers than some may think.
"We try to watch each other's backs as much as we can, but for the most part, there is nobody to watch your back at your duty station," said Close.
Sheriff Scott Stephenson says the jail is severely understaffed. He said because of contracts with the U.S. Marshal, Michigan Department of Corrections and Genesee County, some of the most dangerous inmates in the state sit in his jail.
"I feel that we're below a serviceable level at this point," said Stephenson. "At times, we have one correction officer supervising 112 inmates."
He said housing prisoners from outside the county brings money in. Last year, a little less than $2 million was collected. He'd like to see some of that money go toward additional staffing.
"Absolutely I feel like some of my officers could be in jeopardy," said Stephenson.
He's asking for county commissioners to step in. A Michigan Department of Corrections study recommends 32 full-time officers and 11 part-timers working at the jail. Right now, there are 21 full time and 10 part time. Stephenson is asking for an additional nine officers at a cost of $477,000.
"We just feel that we cannot do that with the money we have today," said James Liegeb, a Midland County Commissioner.
Liegeb said the county is weighing its options because safety is key, but he said it's also their duty to be fiscally responsible.
"We know that this is going to be a costly adventure if we put on more than six corrections officers, and so we're going to really look at the finances to make sure we can do this," said Liegeb.
And for the staff that put their life on the line daily, they hope for the help.
"We try and run this facility as safe as we can, but when there's not even an extra deputy to watch deputies' backs, it's probably an unreasonable, unsafe situation," said Close.
Even with the money made from out-of-county inmates, commissioners say the jail still pulls funds from the general fund. But they did tell TV5 they'll investigate to see if they can add some staff.
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