Livingston County Jail Expansion Project Nears Milestone

LIVINGSTON, Mich. — The first phase of construction on the expansion of the Livingston County Jail is now just days away from completion, and is anticipated to open in late November. The expansion will increase the jail’s current capacity of just 254 to 411, alleviating an overcrowding problem that has long plagued the county.

The existing Livingston County Jail structure is out of compliance and poses potential liability issues that could only be addressed with the jail expansion. The Livingston County Board of Commissioners approved construction contracts, as well as the issuing of up to $15 million in tax-exempt general obligation bonds, in July 2014.

The Livingston County Jail typically houses approximately 60 female inmates, though it has beds for just 31. However, the facility first made local headlines for its overflowing population in 2007 when it began releasing some non-violent, low-risk offenders to ease overcrowding. In 2011, Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte declared a state of emergency after the jail exceeded its capacity for five consecutive days.

Despite these efforts, photographs depicting conditions at the facility released in December 2013 by Livingston Daily showed female inmates sleeping on the floor in a crowded intake area. Sheriff Bezotte also reported that the jail sewer system had been overwhelmed by the amount of use, and that backups were a frequent concern.

In addition to providing increased bed space, the facility will include a number of modern technology improvements such as video visitation and arraignment and more effective security systems. It will also provide separate holding and isolation areas for male and female inmates, new exam rooms, triage areas and medical cells, and a larger pharmacy space. An elevated control room to improve supervision and larger rooms for evidence and property storage will also ease operations. Total construction costs for the expansion have been estimated at nearly $17 million.

The existing facility was built in 1971 and was originally dedicated to male inmates, as female inmates were then rare for the county. Smaller expansions in 1996 and 2000 brought the jail to its current capacity. The most recent expansion kicked off in fall 2014. Once Phase I work wraps, employees are trained and inmates are moved to the new space, contractors will concentrate on improvements to the existing jail’s interior. Community members will be able to tour the new facility prior to its opening. The expansion will also require hiring additional medical staff.

Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction, which has already completed several renovation and expansion projects at the facility, is the project’s builder.