Hearing held in Lansing to learn more about state of emergency at juvenile detention facility

Everyone involved made it clear that conditions were unsafe and unsanitary at Dickerson Juvenile Facility in Hamtramck

An emergency hearing occurred Wednesday afternoon in Lansing regarding the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility.

A Senate Appropriations sub-committee was looking to learn more about what was happening after Wayne County Executive Warren Evans declared a state of emergency.

Everyone involved made it clear the conditions were unsafe and unsanitary at the Dickerson Juvenile Facility in Hamtramck. Officials say at least half of the 140 juveniles shouldn’t be there.

They are awaiting state-provided residential treatment beds, and there aren’t nearly enough nationwide for them. So now the county is looking to partner with the state asking for help and a staggering amount of money from the state to deal with the problem itself.

The Dickerson Juvenile Center was bursting at the seams, dangerous as the inmate-to-staffing ratio is about 20-1, and there is considerable gang activity to deal with.

They can’t get people to work there, so they’re raising salaries to bring people in.

Recently a 12-year-old child ended up raped inside the facility.

“Our average stay has gone from 21 days in our custody to 127 days, and in one instance, a child was in our custody for 800 days,” said Wayne County Deputy County Executive Assad Turfe.

Turfe added that there was considerable gang activity. They’re limited to a shower every other day and spend most of their time in overcrowded living spaces.

Wayne County Health Director Abdul El-Sayed says he is willing to try and have Wayne County start solving the problem itself, even though part of that goes against Medicaid rules.

“There are solutions here if we are willing to get caught trying,” said El-Sayed. “And the challenge here is that people get really annoyed at the government because we say, ‘Nuh-uh unh. No, no, no, red tape can’t do it.’ But we have an emergency on our hands. That’s why we declared it.”

It led them to ask the legislature for $150 million to solve the problems and bring a company to start therapeutic treatment inside the Dickerson building.

“Entice them to be able to get into the business,” Turfe said. Unfortunately, over the years, many of them have ran away from the business because of the high liability that it comes with.”

There are now only 160 therapeutic beds in the entire state. There used to be more than 500.

The legislation said the longer the situation goes without a solution, the worse it gets because these teens lack hope considering they don’t know when they will be able to leave a facility not meant to hold them.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.