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Commissioners vote to spend $4.9M on jail renovations

Berrien County Commissioners plan on using $4.9M taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Berrien County Jail in 2016. 

ABC57's Alexandra Koehn was granted access to part of the jail to find out why improvements need to be made. 

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey has been asking commissioners for the money to expand the ingest area for 10 years now.

Bailey said, “We know 15-20 years down the road we’re going to have to build a new jail, but they’re willing to put in $4.9M to keep us here.”

The sheriff wants the renovations to include adding approximately 15 holding cells, additional inmate property locker rooms, and a medical triage in case someone has a serious medical issue. 

Bailey said, “Part of this project would give us a padded cell in the male section and a padded cell in the female section if we have somebody who’s coming in and not very cooperative and beating their head against the wall.”

Bailey said the basement of the jail where the receiving area is located was built in 1951.

The holding cells appeared to be pretty crowded on Wednesday.

The sheriff said most days they are holding 360 inmates and capacity is supposed to be 341. A new law has given sheriffs in Michigan some leeway in regards to overcrowding.

Due to aging infrastructure and lack of funds across the state, many jails are reportedly over the limit. 

The jail has expanded their tether program to help with the capacity issues. On Wednesday, 65 inmates were released on a tether.  

According to the captain of the jail, they ingest nearly 9,000 inmates every year.

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