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Frank A. Douglass Insurance Agency

Overcrowding At Houghton County Jail At Crisis Level

The saying “there’s always room for one more” may no longer be true for the Houghton County Jail.

An ongoing issue, overcrowding at the jail has been well documented but there’s still no relief in sight.

97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti said, “Right now it’s at a crisis situation in regard to overcrowding. There’s 39 (inmates) in there right now and it has a capacity of (28), and they’re anticipating a lot more coming in. There’s literally no room to put anybody.”

There’s been little public support for building a new jail, with voters turning down multiple proposals for expanding or building a new jail.

But as the drug problem grows in the area, so does the number of people entering the court system, which has to be taken into account when setting bond or sentencing.

Wisti said, “One of the reasons we’re putting people in before they’re convicted, a lot of them are there awaiting trial because they have very bad drug problems and at least they can’t use in jail. These people, I am now feeling, we’re going to release them. There’s a question as to jail time, whether there’s really any space for them, so it’s beginning to (have an affect), yes.”

Besides the public safety issue and humanitarian concerns, there is also the very real possibility of the county being slapped with a lawsuit.

Wisti said, “Because we’re probably violating their 8th Amendment Constitutional rights (concerning) cruel and unusual punishment by keeping them in that jail under these conditions. It’s that bad.”

Lawsuits paid by the county with money that could have been used to build a new jail in the first place.

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