Allegan opens up new jail to public

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — The new, much-debated Allegan County Jail won’t be dedicated for another week. But Friday afternoon, the public got a look inside.

The new, 150,000-square-foot jail holds up to 325 inmates.

The current jail, which opened in 1962, squeezes in 173 inmates in just about every space available.

The county came up with the $20 million in funding to retrofit the former Hayworth plant on River Street in Allegan for the new facility, despite taxpayers turning down two millage requests.

“It’s one of those things where we… it wasn’t an issue of whether or not we need a millage to do this. We had to do this,” said Cpt. Frank Baker with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department. “The facility that we’re in right now is woefully outdated and it’s a liability.”

One advantage to all the space in the new facility is the ability to create pods that separate high risks, and even sick prisoners.

It’s something the department couldn’t do in the old jail.

“Maximum security. One inmate per cell. That’s what the configuration of this pod is,” Baker said as he entered the maximum security unit. “And they have also pods that are designed as more of a minimum security situation.”

Security at the jail will be handed from a glassed-in, centralized control area.

Corrections officers can look over inmates’ pods through the glass, and with the help of video monitors throughout the jail.

Staff won’t have to move inmates around as much as before. They can attend court hearings, and even talk to a loved one over remote video monitors.

Another advantage to the large amount of space in the new jail is the ability to help inmates avoid coming back as repeat offenders.

“The idea isn’t just to house more inmates,” Baker said. “The idea is to provide them the environment in which we can teach them something while we have them here. To provide the programs that will, hopefully, when they leave, give them the tools and the resources they need so they can go back to the community.”

While they still have to make some final touches and train the staff, sheriffs’ officials hope to have the first inmates in the new jail by early summer.

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