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New city hall could mean new county jail

Posted at 8:18 AM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 08:18:31-04

For the first time the Ingham County Sheriff is speaking publicly about how a possible sale of Lansing's city hall could affect the county jail.

The county jail has enough problems with overcrowding. It's had to put mats on the floor and triple-bunk cells made for one because there isn't enough room.

"Let them in the front and you don't have room, somebody has to be let out the back," Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth explained.

Overcrowding at the jail could get worse if Lansing sells its city hall. Currently, city hall houses the 72-hour detention facility, so Lansing is in talks with the county about taking that over. For that to happen Wriggelsworth says something has to give.

"Now you got to deal with transporting more prisoners, you got to deal with medical for more prisoners," Wriggelsworth said. "You got to deal with clothing for more prisoners, it's just a nightmare."

One option is building a new county jail behind the old one in Mason, with enough space for the city's lock-up.

"They're also talking about building a new police station so if that happens they might build a jail that we run," Wriggelsworth added. "There's a lot of possibility out there to cure this problem. One of them will happen I'm just not sure which one it will be."

Nothing is set in stone but Lansing's Mayor Virg Bernero says the city needs out of the jail business.

"Lock-ups are very expensive," he said. "There's liabilities, as you know, accidents sometimes happen, problems occur in lock-ups."

Combining services could also be a way to cut costs in the long run.

"It's better to have one lock-up that everybody supports run by the sheriff, for example he's the constitutional jailer for the county," Bernero said.

No matter the end decision, getting the change is going to be expensive.

"Throw enough money at it and you can cure any problems," Wriggelsworth said. "We all have limited amount of money and that's what we're dealing with."

The mayor will talk about the idea during Tuesday night's "State of the City" address.