Overcrowding at Genesee County jail forces release of inmates

      About 175 inmates are set to be released from the Genesee County jail in the next two weeks because there's simply not enough room to house them.

      Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell declared an overcrowding emergency at the jail this week, because it was over capacity for seven consecutive days. The jail has a capacity of 580 inmates, but there are more than 700 inmates there now.

      In accordance with state law, Sheriff Pickell will recommend to Chief Genesee Co. Circuit Court Judge Richard Yuille which inmates are eligible for early release and which of them will be transferred to jails in neighboring counties. Jails in Clinton, Midland and Bay counties have agreed to house some of Genesee Countyâ??s inmate overflow. Pickell said the move will relieve the problem in the meantime, but not for long.

      "It's chronic. It's chronic,â?? Pickell said about overcrowding. â??Every day we deal with overcrowding. Our jail is simply too small.

      "It's not the total answer. At some point we have to start attacking the causes of crime. We need a bigger jail and we need more police officers on the street."

      Inmates who've served most of their sentences and those with low bonds will be considered for release while other, more violent offenders will be transferred.

      Pickell said the Flint city lockup should open next month, but said he doesnâ??t expect it to resolve overcrowding at the county facility.