ESCANABA - In observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, the Delta County Sheriff's Office honors the countless efforts of and the victims of crime they aid. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), enacted by Congress in 1984, which created the Crime Victims Fund (CVF).
Today, the nation has made dramatic process in securing rights, protections and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims rights laws and all have victim compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country. Financed not by taxpayers, but fines and penalties paid by offenders, the CVF supports victim services, such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs, and victim compensation programs that pay many of victims out-of-pocket expenses from crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses and lost wages.
While national statistics may report that crime is down, our community has experienced a rise meaning more victims. In particular, the types of incidents that police officers respond to have an increased violent component and more individuals are battling with substance abuse. On March 13, 2014, nearly 40 percent of the inmates in the Delta County Jail were incarcerated for assaultive types of crimes. The types of crimes included, but not limited to: domestic violence, criminal sexual contact, assault, interfering with electronic communication (domestic violence or assaultive act) and Michigan Sex Offender Registry violations. That breaks down to 30 inmates and equals 30 immediate victims, along with an undetermined amount of secondary victims. Crime is a serious societal problem, and one that continues to drain resources in our community.
A prime example of the drain of resources is the Delta County Jail. The first section of the building was constructed in 1964; with the newer section built in 1999. Initially, the jail was built to be minimum security; however, over the last several years that has not been the case. Our community and your jail is dealing with an influx of inmates who are extremely violent and a majority of inmates battle substance abuse; consequently, many of the inmates detox while in jail, which requires higher maintenance by the insufficient number of correctional staff.
The Delta County Sheriff's Office realizes that jail should not be the "Ritz" and that some of the inmates are charged with heinous crimes. Our deputies and other police officers have responded to many awful acts of violence over the last year. Yet our community should maintain a certain level of a humane and safe environment for both the staff and inmates at the jail. As I am sure you have heard, due to the age of the building, jail cells and the foundation are falling apart; this includes the formation of two sinkholes that have been repaired as best as possible. The basement at the sheriff's office has also flooded numerous times with sewage; which has destroyed food supplies and equipment stored in the basement. The dangerous offenders and the current conditions in the jail are a serious safety concern for our staff and the community. The community cannot afford to continue to have a correctional facility, plagued with staffing shortages and a structure that is crumbling, as crime continues to increase, in particular violent offenses. We owe victims of crime and our community a more secured and safe correctional facility in Delta County.