A county jail in the U.P. is full. So, now what?

HOUGHTON — The Houghton County Jail is full. So, now what?

If it was a hotel, there would be a sign out front saying “No Vacancy.” The Houghton County Jail only has room for 28 inmates. They’ve been at the number or above for a while now.

In the 1980’s, there would only be eight to ten inmates at any given time. Now, there are three times that number.

Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean said, “It seems that our inmate population has been growing and the physical constraints of the building, it’s a small footprint. Either there needs to be, or should be, an addition or possibly even replace the facility.”

When the jail is full, it’s not uncommon to have inmates sleeping on the floor or they get sent to a nearby county’s jail at a cost of $35 a day.

Sheriff McLean said, “We can generally throw out mattresses on the floor and we’ll double bunk some of the cells. If we get too far over, in excess of ten more or so, we would have to house them at another facility.”

The facility was built in 1963. It’s undergone numerous changes over the years but many aspects are no longer up to code.

Proposals to build a new jail or expand the existing one have failed three different times. Some say it may be time to ask voters to reconsider.

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