County looks at jail alternatives

HOUGHTON — The Houghton County Justice Center Study Committee, in its 2009-2010 criminal justice facilities study, considered alternatives to the Houghton County Jail, and studied both the Work Camp at the airport and Camp Kitwin, near Painesdale.

The committee report described the Work Camp as providing 26 non-secure dorm beds, which requires additional staffing. Only minimum security work-release and work crew inmates can be housed there, due to its design and construction.

“The Work Camp beds are the wrong types, in the wrong numbers, at the wrong place, to meet current and future needs,” the report states.

When studying Camp Kitwin, the committee cited the same shortcomings it found with the Work Camp, plus other issues.

Kitwin was constructed in 1991 by the Michigan Department of Corrections as a low-security prison. It was designed to house 240 inmates in individual rooms along long corridors.

“Major, expensive remodeling (is) required to meet the needs of housing a variety of jail inmates securely,” the report stated.

Other problems with Kitwin are it has a sealed wastewater treatment system which would require a full-time treatment operator. In addition, the facility is heated with wood, which would require 500 cords of wood annually.

The committee also found that the state, which owns the facility, will only lease it, reserving the right to reclaim use of it. Should the county renovate the facility by constructing adequate cells, rooms, and other actions to bring it into state and federal compliance, there is no guarantee the state will not reclaim it in the future, leaving the county without a jail or the financial means to construct a new one.

The committee also examined other legal aspects of a jail and court facility, and found shortcomings there as well, in regards to Camp Kitwin and the Work Camp.