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Overcrowding at Barry County Jail causes state of emergency, early release of 16 inmates

HASTINGS, Mich. -- Overcrowding at the Barry County Jail caused the Sheriff's Department to issue a state of emergency and release 16 inmates on Friday.

Those inmates released early had completed at least 85 percent of their jail sentences; some were released just a day early while others were released more than a month early. Sheriff Dar Leaf anticipates this problem persisting until they get a bigger jail.

In the last four days, the Barry County Jail has had more than 100 inmates at their facility in Hastings. It's designed to house only 98.

"We’ve been up right around 93 to 100 inmates and our max amount of beds we have is 98," said Leaf. "When we reach 85 percent, which is right around 93 and we’re there for 5 days in a row, we have to declare a state of emergency.”

That’s exactly what prompted Leaf to declare a state of emergency on Friday. A meeting with the judges resulted in the early release of 16 inmates, all of them nonviolent who had completed much of their sentences.

"One was released earlier today because she only had one more day left on her sentence," said Leaf. "We had some that had seven days, we had some of them that were upwards of around 30. We may have had some that were 50 days.”

Sheriff Leaf says the jail was built more than 50 years ago, originally as a lockup, which usually houses people for a few days at most. It was expanded on, but never meant to be a jail.

"We just need more room," said Leaf.

Leaf says overcrowding means some inmates are sleeping on makeshift beds, with more people in each room. He says it can be a safety issue, not just for the other inmates, but for the officers, as well.

"Until we get a larger facility, this is the way it’s going to be," said Leaf.

Leaf also says that anyone who is sentenced to serve weekends shouldn’t come to the jail this weekend, they’re going to be turned away. That affects about 12 people, so those 12 people will have to contact their probation officers to find out what’ll happen for next weekend.

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