Branch County continue planning for new jail after millage vote passes

Branch County continue planning for new jail after millage vote passes. (WWMT/File)

Branch County is getting a new jail.

Voters approved a 20-year millage during the Michigan primary election Tuesday.

“It’s nice to be at this point, but then now the real work of course begins,” said Branch County Sheriff C. John Pollack.

It’s been 12 years since the sheriff’s office first went to voters to approve funding for a new jail. After several failed attempts, the sheriff feels social media and a nearly 10-minute long professionally-produced video - which gives residents of the county a behind the scenes look at conditions at the current 143 bed facility - made all the difference.

“What worried me the most was the fact that if we didn’t get this vote, that this building would actually have to be shut down and closed because it was getting to the point where staff was not safe,” Pollack said.

Pollack showed Newschannel 3 all the plans put together so far, all early drafts and concepts of the future jail’s layout.

The current jail has a max capacity of 143 inmates. The new roughly 41,000 square foot facility would house more than 200.

“We’re going to increase our capacity and yet not have to increase our staff,” Pollack said. “It’ll be safer for staff. The working conditions will be so much better for them.”

Housing control is where corrections officers monitor and operate the jail’s doors and cells through a control console. Currently, the housing control faces multiple holding cells. They use camera monitors to see the rest of the facility.

The new facility would have that room in the middle of the jail. It would have a 360-degree view of the day-rooms and cells.

“It’s a little bit funny because it’s always been that apple that’s just out of reach and you can’t get to it, and it’s been that way for so many years that now that we’re actually there, it’s like well you have to pinch yourself, ‘Is this real,’” Pollack said.

The sheriff will visit several newer jails over the coming weeks to see if Branch County is overlooking anything in planning the jail.

The new jail will be located on land behind the old jail and it is possible that work to clear the land could begin at the start of November.

Pollack says the new jail could cost around $22,000,000.