Lenawee County Jail may lose $225,000 if not compliant with PREA

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Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

State prisons are required to become compliant with PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) by October 2014, a decision that could have a financial impact on the Lenawee County Jail. Any jail or prison not in full compliance will no longer receive inmates from the Michigan Department of Corrections, a financial loss to Lenawee County of $255,000 per year.

Captain Dennis Steenrod, Lenawee County jail administrator, told the criminal justice committee of the county commissioners that the Lenawee County Jail is approximately 90 percent compliant with PREA right now. Full compliance would require more space and staffing to meet PREA’s determination that all inmates under the age of 18, referred to as “youthful inmates,” should be protected.

According to www.prearesourcecenter.org, “First, no youthful inmate may be placed in a housing unit where he/she will have contact with any adult inmate through use of a shared day room or other common space, shower area, or sleeping quarters. Second, outside of housing units, agencies must either maintain ‘sight and sound separation’ between youthful inmates and adult inmates — i.e., prevent adult inmates from seeing or communicating with youth — or provide direct staff supervision when youthful inmates and adult inmates are together. Third, agencies must make their best efforts to avoid placing youthful inmates in isolation to comply with this provision.”

Full compliance with PREA is “cost prohibitive” for the Lenawee County Jail, according to Steenrod, who spoke to the Herald on Wednesday, Aug. 7. “It would require the county to add onto the jail, increase staffing and still could not keep those under 18 years old sight-and-sound separate,” he said.

The jail, built in 2005, has over 140 closed-circuit cameras to help protect inmates from harm. Steenrod said the jail uses an objective classification system to determine which inmates tend to be predators to separate them from those prone to be prey. “We are in full compliance with state law,” said Steenrod.

Steenrod told the committee he is not aware of any jail currently in compliance with PREA.

Last week, the Lenawee County Jail had five inmates under 18 housed in the general population.

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