The need for new jail is great

The Alpena County Jail. Probably not a place you give much thought to from day to day, and for sure a place you hope you never have to go. But imagine if you had to go there every day. Imagine if you were employed there. It’s probably not the best sounding place to work for obvious reasons, and certainly not if it’s under less than desirable circumstances. Well it is “the place to work” for 25-plus people who are employed there and the circumstances are just that, less than desirable these days.

A little history — construction began on the Alpena County jail in 1956. Sixty-one years ago! With regular maintenance and upgrades we have been able to use the jail for well over its expected life of 30 years. I think we all can say that a lot has changed since then, everything from the type of world we live in leading to the need for more security, to the necessity for certain amenities and upgrades. Sure, some upgrades have been done through the years, “patchwork”-type upgrades, that now have unfortunately resulted in some pretty poor conditions.

Today, the jail appears somewhat pieced together with many odd rooms and doorways that affect the security and flow of the establishment in general. Some rooms have mold issues; others are not large enough for what they are needed for any longer, leaving officers to share tight spaces to do their work and write reports in. Equipment is forced to be stacked upon other equipment due to lack of space. Still other rooms have ceilings that leak into buckets placed in the middle of the floor.

The County Maintenance Department has put forth a valiant effort over the years to repair and maintain this facility — and has been able to keep it functional for double its life expectancy. There comes a point when repairs are no longer a feasible option and time for a new facility is needed. We are at that point.

As County Clerk, from a human resources standpoint — I have seen the above result of all of this in the form of increased incidents and workers compensation claims from the jail employees. The setup of the jail in itself is poor. It has long since outgrown its design and the increase in inmates and employees over the years has made an issue in security. The building doesn’t have the ability to grow with the times.

There is a dire need for a new county jail. Many may think the upgrade is for the comfort or convenience of the inmates. On the contrary. While there is a natural need to upgrade inmate facilities simply due to deterioration and age of the building, the need for a new jail is for the employees, citizens and yes inmates to have a clean, safe and efficient place to work-visit-reside in day after day. A simple pleasure we all have a right to.

You will see the millage proposal for a new county jail on the ballot Nov. 7. Still unsure how you feel about the necessity of all of this? I encourage everyone to take a tour of our county jail, as words and pictures can not fully convey the safety issues, deterioration and working conditions of the employees, and yes the living conditions of the inmates.