jail

Dozens of Macomb County inmates to be released

Jun 17, 2015
Jack Amick / Creative Commons

Dozens of Macomb County jail inmates will be released soon due to overcrowding.

An overcrowding emergency was declared on June 2. The county's district and circuit judges had 15 days to reduce the number of inmates.

The 15-day period ended on Tuesday, and the judges failed to release enough inmates.

Jack Amick / Creative Commons

A group of former inmates at the Kent County Jail is suing the sheriff in federal court.

The case also blames the food service company Aramark for what inmates called a “mass poisoning.”

The case stems from one meal served at the jail three years ago. About 250 inmates suffered diarrhea, cramps, and other ailments after eating some chicken tacos that went bad; 16 of those former inmates are suing the county and Aramark in federal court.

Jack Amick / Creative Commons

A handful of former inmates at the Kent County jail are suing the sheriff and food service provider Aramark.

The case stems from a food-borne illness. One afternoon, in April 2012, at least a couple hundred inmates at the Kent County Jail got really sick. The culprit? Bad chicken tacos.

Court documents say they suffered pain, cramps, diarrhea and “long-term adverse health consequences” that’s weren’t detailed.

user FatMandy / flickr

A judge says Wayne County must take steps to improve the condition of its current jail.

An opinion from Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny says problems with the old jail have gotten worse while the county focused its efforts on building a new jail. Kenny says the completion of the new jail is not "imminent."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state Senate Judiciary committee will consider a bill tomorrow that would make it easier for criminals to have part of their records expunged.

House Bill 4186 would allow people convicted of a single felony or a couple of misdemeanors to apply to have them removed from their record.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is bringing a class-action lawsuit against Muskegon County on behalf of current and former female inmates at the jail.

ACLU attorney Miriam Auckerman alleges women at the jail are forced to shower and use the toilet in front of male guards. 

Saginaw County Sheriff to outfit some inmates with stun vest

Apr 11, 2014

The Saginaw County Sheriff Department plans to outfit inmates they believe could become violent in court with a "stun vest." 

Inmates will wear the vest underneath their clothes. 

Officers can use a remote control to deliver an electric shock if an inmate tries to attack someone and does not listen to a verbal command to stop. The shock is similar to that of a Taser device. 

user FatMandy / flickr

The St. Clair County Jail has installed new procedures for inmates who request religious diets.

Until now, inmates who wanted religious diets were required to pass a written exam that tested their knowledge of their faith.

A lawsuit filed last year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed that policy was unconstitutional.

The case concerned Aaron Utley, a Muslim man and a former inmate at the jail, who was denied a Halal diet – in keeping with Islamic tradition – after failing a test on Islam.

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Sheriff Bob Bezotte says overcrowding has forced the Livingston County Jail to sleep some female inmates on the floor of a small cell with a single toilet.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell reports Saturday that Bezotte sent an email and photo showing the sleeping conditions to county commissioners.

The newspaper says it received the email and photo Friday through the Freedom of Information Act.

Flick user Still Burning

The U.S. Marshals Service is stepping in to move inmates from two jails in downtown Detroit. That's because of faulty conditions -- leaky roofs, plugged pipes and overheating -- that officials say have plagued the jails for years.

Flickr user Still Burning / Creative Commons

When the public hears that a prisoner has been sentenced to serve time in jail, most of us allow ourselves to think that the guilty party will do the time.

But what happens when the number of prisoners who are sentenced outstrips the capacity of that jail? Do you cram in more and more inmates? Relieve overcrowding through early release? Reduce bonds? And what are the repercussions of each of those approaches?

Daniel Manville is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the Civil Rights Clinic at Michigan State University. He joined us today to discuss the issue.

Some thirty years after the County Jail Overcrowding Act was passed, Michigan is still dealing with overcrowding emergencies in jails across the state. On today's show: How do we fix the problem of jails filled to the brim? Do we reduce bonds? Increase rates of early release?

And, when it comes to scrap metal theft, anything goes, from manhole covers to copper Jesus statues. What can Michigan lawmakers do to crack down on these thefts?

Also, Michigan writer Natalie Burg joined us to talk about her new book. It's a memoir of her experience living on a Swedish farm.

First on the show, it’s day two of the government shutdown.

Democratic Congressman Gary Peters joined us today. He represents Michigan's 14th Congressional district. 

And former Congressman Joe Schwarz joined us to give us his perspective on the issue as well.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are considering changes to prison sentencing guidelines that were last updated about 15 years ago.

The Detroit News reports the idea is driven in part by a desire to reduce the state Department of Corrections budget, which exceeds $2 billion.

A state sentencing guidelines study was launched last month by the bipartisan Michigan Law Review Commission.

Twitter

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has hit the pause button on the project to build a new Wayne County jail in downtown Detroit.

The reason?

The still-unfinished 2,000-bed jail could cost up to $91 million over its $220 million budget. So the county is now considering cutting its considerable losses and leasing a former state prison on Mound Road on Detroit's East Side.

Crain's Detroit Business writer Bill Shea got us thinking about this sorry episode in government spending, and the word "boondoggle" came to mind.

His story in Crain's is headlined "Many dollars, little sense: Projects that seemed like good ideas at the time," and he joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Wayne County / via Wayne County

Wayne County will stop building a $300 million jail complex while it tries to figure out how the project got so over-budget.

The new jail was supposed to save Wayne County money by consolidating several facilities into one new, high-tech one.

ACLU

Michigan jail and prison policies that place teenage offenders in solitary confinement are getting criticized in a new report.

“Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on research in U.S. jails and prisons in Michigan and four other states: Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania

The emergency was declared this week when the number of inmates remained above 700 for seven days in a row. The jail’s capacity is only 580 inmates.

That means state law now requires the jail to release about 175 inmates in the next two weeks. The number needs to get to 555 within 12 days; if the sheriff’s department can’t do that it’ll create a list to hand over to judges to decide.

Flickr user Miss Lauralee

A new program in Detroit is taking a creative approach to helping former inmates improve their lives. That approach involves pairing two groups of people who often don't trust one another: former inmates and police officers.

Jessica Taylor came up with the idea for the mentorship program called New Beginnings. She’s Executive Director of Chance for Life, a non-profit that helps inmates transition back into the community after they've been released.

As part of the mentorship program, officers drive the men to counseling appointments and recovery programs. They help the men obtain birth certificates and social security cards. The pairs also take part in social activities, like going to ball games.

At first, Taylor says it was a tough sell to both groups. But after a few months of spending time together, she says the men consider each other friends, and some even consider one another family.

Taylor says if you want to make communities safer, you have to engage the people who make them unsafe, and you have to involve the police. She hopes to expand the program in the near future.

Gregg Ward took his 16-year-old daughter Emily to a crowded courtroom last Thursday morning, so they could both see what would happen to Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.

To her father’s astonishment, Moroun became the only billionaire ever to spend a night in the crowded Wayne County jail, after a judge found him in contempt for refusing to follow court orders to demolish some illegal construction and live up to a contract with the state. Emily was fascinated. “I was definitely glad I went!” she said. “It was really interesting to see how justice would prevail.”

The Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming is considering changes that would limit where people paroled from jail or prison could live.

Most parolees go home when they’re released from jail. Those who don’t have a safe place to reintegrate into society are housed through reentry programs. People are usually on parole for two years or less(depending on violations).

Police Chief James Carmody said he supports efforts to house and rehabilitate parolees from Wyoming. But he’s concerned too many state and federal parolees are being concentrated in a couple of motels in his city.

“We’re just saying the concentration is really beyond our ability to control and maintain,” Carmody said. “We can only handle so many and so much. Maybe it’s time to look at spreading that out a little bit and letting the rest of the community engage in (the discussion) as well.”

Debtor's Prison

When you step into a Michigan courtroom, crime is supposed to be crime, regardless of social class. But whether you go home or go to jail  sometimes depends on whether you have money.

Let’s say you’re one of the many thousands of people in Michigan who’s unemployed. Or, you’re working in a job that doesn’t cover your bills. Like your rent or mortgage. Or, like child support.

And if you don’t have the money to pay those bills,  you might end up in court. Selesa Likine did. Her husband divorced her. He got custody of the kids.  She lost her home. Likine, who had worked as a realtor, was ordered to pay $1,100 a month in child support. She couldn’t pay it  and the court was not allowed to hear why. So she spent 43 days in the Oakland County Jail.

“The jury in the case never heard that during the period when she wasn’t paying the child support, she was institutionalized with schizo-affective disorder, was declared totally disabled by the Social Security Administration, lost her realtors’ license, was unable to work, and was subsisting on disability income,” says David Moran, co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

Moran took over Likine’s Case. In October, Moran and the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Michigan Supreme Court for a new trial. They say what happened to Likine is no different than a debtor’s prison – sort of like Dickensian days, when poor people who owed money were thrown into jail.

Likine, who’s in her 40s, lives with her mother now. She takes medicine for her mental illness and says she's stable. But she’s not optimistic about her future. She doesn’t think anyone will want to hire her because she’s a felon.

A guard at the state prison in Newberry is being held in the Mackinaw City jail awaiting felony charges of trying to smuggle contraband to inmates. John Cordell is with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

"It appears from the investigation that he was trying to introduce contraband – both heroin and contraband tobacco, which is illegal inside facilities – inside the correctional facility."

Cordell says the man faces at least three felony charges. He says the scheme was detected from monitoring phone traffic into the prison and information from a cell phone that was seized from a prisoner.

The guard was stopped and arrested in downtown Mackinaw City. Cordell says the contraband was in the corrections officer’s car.

The guard has also been suspended without pay from his job at the prison in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In February the sheriff instituted a “postcard only” rule at the county jail. That meant inmates could only send or receive mail on standard postcards. The sheriff was trying to keep drugs, pornography, and items inmates could use as weapons – out of the jail. Legal paperwork is exempt. Now the sheriff is allowing inmates to send letters. But incoming mail still has to be written on standard postcards.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Mail policies at several county jails across the state are becoming more restrictive, mainly to save money. It’s causing an outcry from inmates’ family and friends, and people who advocate for prisoners’ rights.

Jackson State Prison
STEVE CARMODY

Michigan Senate Republicans say the Department of Corrections could save tens of millions of dollars by making sure all prisoners are parole-eligible as soon as they have served their minimum sentences.  

Republican state Senator John Proos says that means making sure prisoners have taken their necessary prisoner reentry programs in time for their parole hearings. 

 “Are they getting the proper education so they can be eligible for parole at their earliest release date? The longer we keep somebody past earliest release date, the most costly it is to us."

Proos says additional savings can be found in the department by privatizing food services and mental health services for prisoners. Proos chairs the Senate panel that oversees the Department of Corrections budget. The panel approved a spending plan that is well below Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In February, new rules were adopted that prohibit inmates from sending or receiving letters. Inmates can receive or send postcards only. Legal documents are exempt.

Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler cites security reasons for changing the policy earlier this year. He says people send drugs, razor blades, and other contraband inside letters to inmates.

“I can’t give you a specific number of times that we’ve dealt with that, but my perspective as sheriff you know in a facility that needs to be as secure as possible, one is too many.”

About 20 protestors gathered in front of the Muskegon Count Jail today to rally against the policy.

Faith Groesback was among them.

“What do you have to do to ensure that contraband doesn’t come in through a letter? You run it through a metal detector, you have a dog sniff it, you have somebody open it and shake it; it’s not that complicated.”

She argues the policy violates inmates and their loved ones’ privacy and freedom of speech.

“If you’ve ever been, had a relationship of any kind with somebody in that situation, you’d understand how vitally important those letters are and what they mean to them.”

Mal Williams, also of Muskegon, found out about the policy from a friend of his that’s inside the jail just yards away from him.

“Just think what we would’ve lost if we had not let Dr. King write letter when he was in Birmingham Jail. There’s a lot of issues involved here. Its starts off with a letter and then the next thing you know you’re losing something else.”

Sheriff Roesler says inmates’ speech is not stifled because they can send as many postcards as they want.

“Courts have recognized that certain rights are restricted when you come into jail or prison and in the interest of the security of the institution, sometimes we do have to restrict those rights.”

About a half a dozen other county jails in Michigan have similar post-card-only policies.

A county in Colorado reversed its post-card-only policy late last year after the ACLU threatened legal action.

The ACLU of Michigan says they have been looking into 'post-card-only' policies in the state.