How can the Wayne County jail be overcrowded if beds are empty?

How can the Wayne County jail be overcrowded if beds are empty?

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Releases from the Wayne County jail because of overcrowding is a trend we've covered over the last few years.  But there's plenty of space at the jail, including an entire floor that's not being used.

It comes down to money.  The Wayne County sheriff wants more of it, but the former sheriff turned county executive says make due with what you have.

"So he doesn't have to explain it.  They just need to fix it.  That's what I want.  I don't need an explanation.  I need a fix," said Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

"He should roll up his sleeves, look at what we can do to make sure you do more with less and come forward to do it," said Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano.

In 2012 and continuing up to today, the Wayne County courts and the jail have released at least a thousand people back on the streets with nothing more than an ankle bracelet.  These are just any people.  They're very violent people charged with murder, kidnapping, rape and carjacking.

Why would they let them go on the streets?  Well, the excuse we're given is the jails are overcrowded.  But how can that be when at the main facility more than 40 percent of the cells are empty.

"There are empty beds in the Wayne County jail," Napoleon said.

We don't have enough beds.  That's what they tell the public.  That's what the judges think, that the beds are short at the jail.

"We have 550 empty beds.... You're sitting on an empty floor," the sheriff said.

So can that floor function?

"Correct," he answered.

Why is it not functioning?

"Because I don't have deputies to watch it," he said.

Now it's important to say that the sheriff's budget is set by Ficano.  It's also important to say that Ficano used to be the sheriff.

"He should roll up his sleeves and makes sure he works as hard as possible to make sure that he comes within budget," said Ficano.

There are currently 2,300 inmates in Wayne County lockup, but Ficano only budgeted the sheriff 1,800 a day.

Now the circuit court requires a certain ratio of guard to inmates.  So how do they make this ratio?  They pay millions of dollars in overtime to deputies, blow a huge hole in the budget and get this, they let very dangerous creeps out on the streets on tether -- murderers, rapists, kidnappers and Adam Davis, a wanted felon who last year allegedly ran over his girlfriend with his car.  He was charged with second-degree murder.  They put him on a tether instead of putting him in jail.  He cut it off and disappeared.

And last week's boner.  Rocky Marquez, a fugitive found in Detroit with a loaded assault rifle, escaped from county lockup by switching identity with another inmate.  How did that happen?  The fingerprint identification machine was out of order.

"That is the most basic tool in the world to be able to verify a man's identity biometrically by his fingerprint.  We don't have it," said a person who didn't want to be identified.

"It is a critical piece of equipment that needs to be fixed and we will get it fixed," Napoleon said.

Even though we have four empty floors at the county jail, Ficano decided to spend another half a billion dollars on the new jail, a jail that wouldn't require as many deputies to staff it and allow us to close the other, older jails.  There are just a few problems.  The new jail won't be big enough and we're going to have to keep the old jails open.  Problem number two?  We never budgeted for things like technology.

Napoleon said he signed off on the old deal, not the raw deal we're getting now.

"I have an idea what happened so he doesn't have to explain it.  They just need to fix it.  That's what I want.  I don't need an explanation.  I need a fix.  I need them to build a jail that I was told they were going to build when I agreed to build the jail.  That's what I want.  I don't want an explanation.  I want it to get done the way I was told it was going to get done," he remarked.

"You fix together in a partnership.  You just don't say fix it and then walk away and say it's your problem.  It's all of our problems," said Ficano.

You bet there are problems -- millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of problems.

So who pays for it all in the end?  That would be you Wayne County with your pocketbook and your well-being.

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