Report prompts Feds to move prisoners out of Wayne County jails

US Marshals transfer hundreds of prisoners out of downtown Detroit jails after poor conditions found

DETROIT - U.S. Marshals have pulled federal prisoners out of Wayne County's downtown jails after very poor conditions were discovered during a lengthy inspection.

"They found some shortcomings as far as sanitation, as far as safety and as far as health," said Kevin Pettit, deputy U.S. Marshal.

The federal report is not out yet, but during the inspections investigators told Wayne County's chief of jails the conditions at the two downtown jails were inhumane.

"The issues with the drains and the flies, you know, the flying insects, heating and cooling, the air flow, the ventilation is just terrible," said Jeriel Heard, the jails director.

Heard claims the county executive and commission need to budget more for these projects but they say no so fast.

"We need a funding source to come from the sheriff in order for us to be authorized to go in and do that work."

Both sides agree the the multi-million maintenance projects didn't make a lot of sense when they were moving into a new facility and these older jails would eventually be demolished, but that new jail project has been halted.

Prisoner advocates say Wayne County is likely in violation of a court order to keep the jails livable.

Deborah Choly, who has represented inmates since the 1980s, said the new jail project is no excuse for the conditions in the jails.

"These conditions didn't just grow up in the last two or three years, I think that there may have been neglect for longer than that," said Deborah Choly of Michigan Legal Aid.

Some improvement projects cannot wait including repairs to elevator motors.

"The fact of the matter is, if they don't replace those motors, we could have a catastrophic event," said Heard.

Rick Nelson, the head of jail maintenance, told Local 4 that for too long he has been forced to use band aids and now he is running out of those.

The U.S. Marshals moved the federal prisoners to the William Dickerson Detention Facility.

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