Jail remains overcrowded

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean (right) breaks the news Tuesday to County Board members Al Koskela (left), Anton Pintar and Tom Tikkanen (behind Pintar) and County Administrator Eric Forsberg about the chronic overcapacity of the County Jail.

HOUGHTON — The Houghton County Jail was at or overcapacity for 29 of 31 days in December, and over for the first nine days in January, Sheriff Brian McLean told the County Board Tuesday.

A jail population over the rated capacity for seven days requires disclosure to county officials under the state’s Overcrowding Emergency Act.

“The jail captain’s been in pretty much daily conversation with the judges,” McLean said.

In December, the jail population was at the 28-inmate capacity for seven days. It only dipped below capacity for two days, when it was at 26 inmates on Dec. 14-15. It was at 30 or more for 12 days of the month, peaking at 34 inmates on Dec. 8.

So far in January, the lowest number was 30, from Friday through Monday. The highest population was 33, which spanned Jan. 1-3.

Numbers at the work camp have been between 9 and 14, well less than maximum capacity.

McLean said there has been a shortage of qualified inmates. They have to be sentenced, pass a drug test, be a nonviolent offender, male and cleared by the jail nurse.

“The minute they’re sentenced and if they qualify, we get them up there,” he said.

The jail sometimes also houses Keweenaw County inmates. In the event the jail is crowded, unsentenced Keweenaw County inmates are taken to another location, such as Crystal Falls.