A northern Michigan jail is forced to turn to some of its neighbors for help.
Due to a staffing shortage at the Kalkaska county jail, they’re having to send all of their inmates elsewhere. But Kalkaska County’s staffing problems aren’t new – and they’re not entirely unique.
“We had nine corrections officers. In a six day period we lost three, and that brought us down to six. With six we can’t staff.” As is the case in many places, workers are leaving for more pay, less stress, or more opportunity. We’ve had basically a running open position for the last six or eight months. And then that time. We’ve had one person apply …that’s why were in the state we are in,” Undersheriff Dave Wagner says.
So for the last week the jail is turning to other counties for help. Kalkaska now has contracts with both Leelanau and Wexford counties. Wagner says, “For the public there will be no changes, other than if you have a loved one in the jail they will be housed in either Leelanau or Wexford Counties.”
People who are arrested will come to the jail in Kalkaska initially, but once they’re formally charged they’ll be sent on the road.
That’s keeping the jail population to a minimum. “Our population right here? There’s two. We have 23 inmates of ours but 21 of them are housed elsewhere,” Wagner says.
The Undersheriff says officers are now spending time driving inmates back and forth to those nearby counties. “We have to focus a lot more on transports. We have to bring them from court and back to the court… We have to move our guys from more of a supervisory position supervising the inmates to now we are transporting the inmates.”
It is costing $30-35 dollars per day per inmate. That’s $600-700 daily with current numbers. The sheriff says they’re expecting to spend up to $40,000 through the end of the year, when they’ll re-evaluate the situation.
“We would love to get back to our jail, that’s our goal. However there’s other hurdles we have to jump,” Wagner says.
In the meantime, Wexford and Leelanau have room to spare. The Wexford County Sheriff says they understand the struggles. Sheriff Trent Taylor says, “We have plenty of space in our jail right now, and fortunately we’re able to help.” He adds, “We understand the struggles they’re having right now.”