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Heating again in flux at Wayne County Jail, detainees endure frigid weekend

Wayne County Jail's Division II facility, or "Old Jail" was built in 1929 and is still in use.
Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives Of Labor And Urban Affair
Wayne State University
Wayne County Jail's Division II facility, or "Old Jail" was built in 1929 and is still in use.

It was a frigid weekend for some people detained in the Division II building of the Wayne County Jail, according to a few people held there.

"It’s a very cruel and unusual situation when you can barely stay warm,” said Walter Galloway, who has been held in the facility for three years and nine months awaiting trial. “You know, you're scared to jump in the shower because you don't want to catch pneumonia. So it's a hard thing."

Galloway said that the building began to feel more cold on Friday, and the lower temperatures persisted until sometime on Monday. He said temperature drops in the building have been frequent occurrences.

“For some reason the heat goes out like every couple of weeks,” Galloway told Michigan Radio. “Like they'll fix the problem in a temporary fix and it goes back out. It's very, very cold.”

The Free Press reported that the heat was out in a portion of the jail at the end of last month, but jail officials deny that the issue is a persistent problem or that temperatures inside approached anything near the freezing temperatures outside.

“We had problems with the compressor and some other parts of the machinery, but it's never been out,” Edward Foxworth, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said on Thursday. “It's just that we have a really tough time regulating the heat in the building.”

He said that the temperatures dropped only in one portion of the Division II Building, which is nearly a century old and known as the “Old Jail.”

“That old furnace really needs significant upgrades and software now to be able to manage it,” Foxworth said, and added that the sheriff’s office is working to ensure the heat stays on across the facility during the winter storm and cold snap that are forecast for the coming days.

He said jail officials are handing out additional blankets and considering moving people in their custody to the side of the building which has maintained warmer temperatures.

Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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