ESCANABA — Under the cells at the Delta County Jail, there is standing water at the end of a utility tunnel. Water damage and flooding is one of several reasons given for a new jail. The condition of the 50 year old jail is deteriorating.
Community leaders toured the jail Wednesday to see first-hand the condition of the facility. It included access to the building rarely open to the public.
In a room that houses both a sewage grinder and files that chronicle the history of inmates at the jail is a line of boots that are used when the room floods.
Every small space is used for storage. Boxes are piled and shelving line hallways to create more storage space.
Walls in cells are lined with metal sheeting, installed long after the newer portion of the jail was built, to keep inmates from passes drugs and other items through drywall. Windows are covered to prevent inmates from communicating with those in nearby cells. The measure was taken to keep deputies safe. But it also means they could be blindly walking into cells.
Rooms have been converted — sometimes several times — to meet the changing needs of the jail. The current nurses’ room is caught between the newer and older portions of the jail. She has a procedure to lock herself down if trouble occurs.
About 25 people took the tour Wednesday to view the facility, the working conditions of the staff and housing of inmates. The hope was to gain support from the community for a ballot proposal in November to build a new jail and Sheriff’s office.
“All I can say is shocking!” Mike Parrett, a member of the Carpenter Millwright Local 1510, posted on Facebook. “This county needs a new facility for the many reasons but the safety of the officers that work there day in and day out should be one of the biggest. I was amazed at the conditions and dangerous positions that the correction officers are put in everyday.”
Gladstone Mayor Jay Bostwick asked questions as he went thorough the building. He was disturbed by the condition of the cells and the flooring.
“It’s in disrepair and outdated. The county definitely needs a new jail,” he said.
The county is asking for $17.9 million over 30 years on the November ballot to pay for a jail that would be relocated to the county service building on College Avenue in Escanaba. A larger ballot proposal in May was defeated by 23 votes. Officials are hoping this proposal is approved.
“We’re not trying to trick anybody, we are just trying to give everybody a look to see what we see every day. We believe that we need a new jail. We put a lot of work and a lot of thought into trying to make it as cost effective as possible plus to make it as safe as possible for our officers,” said Undersheriff Phil Griebel.