Michigan County Jail Celebrates 50th Anniversary

By Aileen Wingblad
The Oakland Press

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — It’s the “Big 5-0” for OCJ.

This Wednesday, August 3 marks the 50th anniversary of operations at the Oakland County Jail.

Measuring approximately 270,500 square feet, the jail spans 12.7 acres within the Pontiac County Government Complex. Construction began in December 1969, with the cost of the new facility estimated at $9 million. When completed, it replaced the Wayne Street Jail, which opened in 1922 near the corner of Wayne and Huron streets in downtown Pontiac. According to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the facility was built for $382,678 to house 88 inmates, but quickly expanded to accommodate 259 inmates.

Fast forward to December 1986, when the land was laid for OCJ’s South Annex. Inaugurated in 1989, the annex added 244 cells and 488 beds.

The Oakland County Jail currently houses about 1,000 inmates and has a capacity of 1,664 inmates, the sheriff’s office said.

“We’ve seen a huge number of people walk through those doors, from celebrities to murderers,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a news release. “Our team has done an incredible job from day one until today. They have risen to every challenge that has come their way. From direct physical attacks to a variety of medical conditions including Covid. Today, we are not just celebrating 50 years of a building being in service, but 50 years of excellent correctional teamwork.”

Some of the high profile inmates the OCJ has housed include serial killer Leslie Allen Williams and “suicidal doctor” Jack Kevorkian. Current inmates of note include suspected Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, who is charged with four counts of first-degree homicide and several other crimes, and his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, who are charged with four counts of manslaughter in connection with the 30 November 2021 mass murders.

Bouchard said that since becoming sheriff, his office has been working with criminal justice partners, including the justice system, to reduce the population of the OCJ.

“The focus on who really needs to be behind bars has allowed us to reduce our average daily population from over 2,200 inmates to generally around 1,400 pre-Covid,” he said. “To sum up, my philosophy is that those we are afraid of should be behind bars and those that society is angry with, we should find an alternative sentence that allows them to work and change their path in life.”

The corrections budget for fiscal year 2022 is nearly $52 million, or about 30% of the sheriff’s office’s total budget.

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(c)2022 Oakland Press, Sterling Heights, Michigan.

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