Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 9, 2014

Corrections consultants to tour GT County Jail

TRAVERSE CITY — Two National Institute of Corrections consultants are in Grand Traverse County to assess the county's criminal justice system and jail.

The assessment was prompted by some county commissioners' belief that the county needs to build a new jail at an estimated cost of $30 million because of higher inmate numbers and deteriorating jail facilities.

But Grand Traverse County Jail Administrator Bob Hall said NIC consultants Jim Robertson and Mark Goldman will consider all aspects of the local criminal justice system and alternatives to building a jail during their visit, which starts Tuesday and runs through Thursday.

"There’s times this group says ‘No, you need to change the way you’re doing business and you wouldn't be overcrowded,'” Hall said. "It’s going to depend on how they assess the criminal justice system here."

The NIC consultants plan to meet with local criminal justice officials and tour Grand Traverse County's jail. The assessment won't cost the county anything; it's a federally funded service.

Robertson is a partner at Denver-based Voorhis Robertson Justice Services, Inc. Goldman is the president of Atlanta-based Mark Goldman & Associates.

Both firms help government officials study, plan and construct criminal justice and correctional facilities, according to their websites.

Local officials already sent Robertson and Goldman photographs of the jail, inmate demographic and population statistics dating to 1974 and data from a local committee that studied jail overcrowding roughly 10 years ago

The jail's population growth "slowed down drastically" as a result of that committee's work, Hall said. But the NIC consultants will explore why inmate numbers are again straining the jail's maximum occupancy.

County Administrator Dave Benda said the NIC assessment should result in several options for county officials to consider as they try to improve the jail.

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