Jail addition has flexible design: Number of beds at any given time varies with classification of inmates

HOUGHTON — The number of beds at the proposed Houghton County jail addition would vary depending upon conditions, the project architect said Wednesday.

Voters will decide in November on an $11 million jail addition that will bring the county’s capacity close to 90 people.

Over the 20-year life of the bond, homeowners in the county will pay an estimated 75 cents per $1,000 of taxable value. At that number, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $37.50 a year.

In their locked configuration, the cells are designed to hold two people per cell, who would also have access to a day room, said Karin Cooper of U.P. Engineers & Architects. In those numbers, the addition would house 56 beds. The current 28-bed jail has been beset by cramped crowding.

A couple of cells in the holding area could be converted to holding cells if necessary, Cooper said. Three cells are being counted as single-occupant to allow for inmates needing to be isolated. That could include reasons such as being a violent offender or not wanting a roommate, Cooper said.

“Those three cells are actually going to be sized to accommodate two people, but they’re not going to be counted that way in the initial process,” she said. “It all comes down to classifying the offenders when they get sentenced.”

The county work camp, now located by the Houghton County Memorial Airport, would be closed. The existing inmate space in the jail would be converted to dormitory housing for the work camp, Cooper said. That would house up to 33 people.

More information on the jail addition is available at houghtoncounty.net.