Addition planned for Houghton County Jail

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - The Houghton County Jail is in desperate need of more space. Flexibility, visibility, security and safety are the priorities for a planned addition to the Houghton County Jail. The addition will replace the two-story parking structure behind the jail and courthouse.

"That is a challenge. It is a very tight place for a jail addition. Although we were a little dubious going into it, the people that were involved in the design process so far, we all feel like it is a good solution. It is going to work out where it is," said Karin Cooper of U.P. Engineers and Architects. Cooper is a project manager and design architect for the plan.

The addition is expected to add 55 high security and 30 low security spots. The current capacity is 28 inmates, plus 26 low-security offenders at the work camp.

"Our immediate need is more bed space. That is an immediate need. Also, we want to have a safe and secure facility. Public safety, those persons who aren't in jail that should be in jail. We need to have room for those," said Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean.

Overcrowding crams multiple kinds of drug, alcohol, mental and other issues together. This creates an unsafe environment for inmates and officers.

"Oh it will make a tremendous difference. Number one, for efficiency. Being able to meld both the work-camp facility and the jail under one complex will allow us to use that staff much more efficiently," said McLean.

The Sheriff hopes more efficient staffing will help offset the cost of the addition.

"Conceptual design is very early. It is more or less a study of how big things need to be and where we can fit things in. So, then we will develop an estimate of what that will cost," said Cooper.

U.P. Engineers and Architects hopes to have an estimate of costs by the end of the month. Voters will have a chance to approve funding for the project November 6.

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