A Michigan youth jail is so overcrowded with juvenile inmates that it sparked a county official to declare an “extraordinary” public health emergency on Tuesday, according to a report.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced the public health emergency during his State of the County speech as the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility in Detroit is packed with 137 young people in a building designed to accommodate 80, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“The situation has become untenable for nearly 140 youths that are currently residing there,” Evans said. “Extraordinary action has become necessary.”
Evans explained that the public health emergency declaration will empower the county to expedite hiring more staff and provide adequate therapy resources at the crowded facility, but he emphasized the need for the state to intervene and “put some more beds online.”
Evans attributed the overcrowding to a lack of long-term care options for juveniles after their cases are complete, for which reason they end up remaining at the facility even after they were slated for release.
“Many of those kids who had been adjudicated have spent more than 100 additional days in detention instead of the treatment facilities that they deserve,” he said. “One juvenile was forced to languish in the facility for over 800 days.”
Mark Roland, who served as deputy director of administration at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility since September, was terminated last Friday amid ongoing investigations into allegations of sexual assault against a 12-year-old boy by other youths at the facility, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“One juvenile was forced to languish in the facility for over 800 days.”
— Wayne County Executive Warren Evans
Roland was reportedly surprised by his firing, telling the local outlet that he was involved with trying to improve the conditions of the jail.
“I am just not sure what made them come to that decision,” he said. “My hope would have been that they would have kept the current team in place for consistency.”
The state police are leading the investigations, and seven employees at the juvenile jail have been suspended as of Friday, according to the Detroit Free Press. Minors at the facility are reportedly subjected to prolonged confinement without access to necessities such as showers, recreational activities, medication and education.
A subcommittee of the state Senate called a special hearing on Wednesday to address the problems at the juvenile jail.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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