Ann Arbor Area Community News
After February’s jail millage failed, blogger and County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum provided analysis opposite to the popular interpretation on this site: that the mental health diversion and treatment programs included in the millage were not so much a bribe to Ann Arbor progressives to make jail expansion easier to swallow, but that jail expansion was going to happen regardless, and the “tough-on-crime” campaign that we all saw was an attempt to make the mental health parts of the millage easier to swallow for the rest of the County. Larry noted that the February millage was probably the best chance Washtenaw had to make sure that something other than just cell expansion occurred.
A second-choice proposal (pdf) has been issued by County Administrator Bob Guenzel, reflecting this. While Guenzel notes that he still believes everything in the original package to be needed, the new proposal is cut down to closer to those things that the County will be forced to do by the state: expanding the jail, though by only half of the original capacity expansion, upgrading infrastructure and support (kitchen, medical, etc) facilities to reflect the expanded capacity, and providing some security enhancements at the Courthouses. $1 million annually is included for mental health diversion services. The implementation of this proposal would likely mean reducing the County’s spending on other services.
Guenzel concludes by again noting that this is not a long-term solution, but one meant to meet the County’s State-mandated needs:
It is my belief that this proposal is the best compromise to providing the immediate needs of the Public Safety & Justice system. It is, however, a watered down version of the original and will not result in all of the benefits that would have been gained had the millage passed. This proposal allows for short-term relief of overcrowding once the elements are implemented, not just through increased beds at the jail, but also through programming and efficiencies. . . It will gain us much, but the long-term solution is still in question. Many believe that even this will result in overcrowding, just at a higher level of capacity than it is now. That is possible, but this is the beginning rather than the end.
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