Tuscola Co. Jail talks next steps after voters turn down proposal

Back to the drawing board for the Tuscola County Sheriff’s Office after its proposal for a new jail was voted down again.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:38 PM EDT
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TUSCOLA CO., Mich. (WNEM) - Back to the drawing board for the Tuscola County Sheriff’s Office after its proposal for a new jail was voted down again.

The sheriff’s office is very concerned about how it will get the current jail updated to meet their needs.

“We’ve used every nook and cranny in this place that we can use and it’s time for a new facility,” said Lt. Brian Harris, the Tuscola County Jail Administrator.

For the second time since last November, voters in Tuscola County voted no on a new county jail.

Related: Voters turn down Tuscola Co. jail proposal again

This leaves the sheriff’s office and staff to figure out how they’ll make their current jail work best moving forward.

“We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board,” Harris said. “We’re going to have to sit down and have some meetings with the commissioner and our jail committee and try to come up with a resolution. I don’t foresee it going back on the ballot anytime soon.”

From hallways being used as storage space and closets being used as offices, Harris said the L-shape style of the building is a major concern for staff.

“Trying to keep the inmates properly classified is very difficult. Pod style jails give you a lot more options, the observation of them is a lot more simpler so you don’t have so many inmates spread out over a larger piece of property,” he explained.

With a lot of the issues stemming from the age of the building, the sheriff’s office said the proposed $44 million could have created a more streamlined facility. It explained the proposed price is due to post-COVID inflation, while emphasizing the need for more holding cells within the jail.

“We need at least eight holding cells and observation cells. That’s one of the biggest concerns that we have,” Harris said.

Currently, the jail only has two holding cells which sometimes forces the jail to play musical chairs. It needs to separate inmates due to classifications like drug use, suicide watch, and other concerns that would cause an inmate to have to be separated from others.

“It’s going to be very difficult and very costly to try to piece this one together to fit our needs,” Harris said.

The sheriff’s office also said they’ve only been able to avoid OSHA citations because the age of the facility is grandfathered in.

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