Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 14, 2013

Sheriff pans jail being built in Detroit

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — DETROIT (AP) — A Wayne County jail under construction in Detroit is mired in problems and won’t be large enough to replace other jails, the sheriff said.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon said at least one of three existing jails may need to stay open because the new 2,000-bed jail won’t have enough beds to put all county inmates under one roof, erasing millions of dollars in potential long-term savings. He said the project is a “mess.”

Napoleon, a candidate for Detroit mayor, said there’s also no money set aside yet for furniture, technology or fixtures at the $300 million jail, which is supposed to open in 2014 across the street from the county courthouse.

“The lesson here is poor planning brings poor results,” he told The Detroit News.

June Lee, the chief of staff for county Executive Robert Ficano, acknowledged the jail is behind schedule and has budget problems. But he said Napoleon is upset because some of his ideas for the jail were rejected.

Lee said Napoleon wanted private bathrooms for his staff and 51 computer tablets that cost $2,400 each.

Ficano “has taken the lead in making this project work. (Napoleon) is standing by and letting the CEO do all the hard work,” Lee said.

Napoleon denied any sour grapes and said “this is about them screwing up.”

The FBI, meanwhile, is investigating corruption in county government.

The jail is expected to have technology that will allow inmates to appear in court via video camera, but other high-tech features could be dropped, the News reported.

Lee said the jail still is expected to save money in the long run.

“The project has challenges and we are working through them,” he said.