The State Department of Corrections gave us the exclusive tour with our cameras rolling on Monday, the same tour it gave some Wayne County Commission members and Sheriff's Office officials last week. We learned a few things inside.
While the old prison will need some serious work to turn it into a jail it is the transition would appear workable. The question is at what cost and how much help will the broke County of Wayne need from the State of Michigan to make that happen? The leverage the state has in this situation is withholding its bonding authority thus killing the deal for the county that spent $160 million on a jail that will never see a prisoner and will try and reuse a lot of the jail cell pods from the existing failed jail out at Mound Road.
Our tour was a quick one. It lasted about an hour and 1/2. The Deputy Warden was kind enough to walk us around the campus. It turns out Detroit is already using a couple of the buildings out there -- detectives can do line ups and prisoner interrogations and even arraignments there now to apparently good effect. We were shown how at least nine buildings would be used out there on the site, three of them new construction and even a new court house office building across the street beyond the razor wire fence.
There were wet and dry cells to be toured, an infirmary that is brand spanking new just awaiting customers, the yard offers acres of space. We found a surprise waiting for us inside a 30,000 square foot "pole barn." The plan is to drop twenty ton jail cell pods sinking into the winter mud in River Rouge inside the building after structural steel is cut from the roof to allow a crane to drop them inside. But also inside this building was a truckload of Wayne County property already unloaded.
At least a dozen prison showers that go with the jail cell pods along with the doors and windows for the pods have already been moved in with a hi-lo. This was a surprise to County Commissioner Ray Basham who took the very same tour last week but missed the items that have been dropped off. He is frustrated by the fact that the project is moving forward even though the only approval the commission has granted anyone is to negotiate the deal that will likely not come until sometime next summer.
What we saw out at Mound Road tells us a couple of things. One, the county and the state are ready to roll and are cooperating on getting this project moving. Next is that it appears little will stop this project from moving forward as an architect has been hired to start the plans and the materials the county has been paying to store are being moved into the pole barn as a way to save money.
So the only real questions left to answer in this incredible new jail saga is will anyone fill one of the Mound Road jail cells as a result of the fraudulent disaster it became?
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