Grand Traverse County Announces Jail Task Force

This is a great development. Community leaders have started a task force to address mental health issues in the jail. Props to Grand Traverse County Commissioner Sonny Wheelock for the sincere interview and genuine comments. Wheelock said that they can do better and they want to do better addressing mental health concerns for people in the Grand Traverse County Jail. Now that’s the right thing to say.

The statements are in contrast to the comments that Sheriff Bensley issued on April 4, 2018. In those comments, Bensley implied that the jail’s physical structure is the only thing wrong with the jail and money is the only way to fix it. Bensley said, “…the deficiencies are not remediable without expensive major renovations, demolition and reconstruction of portions of the jail, or a totally new jail.” He also references “building related limitations and problems.”

What I’d like to hear is an explanation of why Bensley believes that the jail’s physical structure is leading to suicides and attempted suicides. What specifically about the structure is inadequate? Are there studies that show that jails with similar layouts to the Grand Traverse County Jail have higher suicide rates than other jails? If so, what’s the deficiency that contributes to mental health problems and suicide attempts with this design of a jail? What do jails with high suicide rates have in common structurally? What do jails with low suicide have in common structurally? Has Bensley studied the issue, or is the link between the physical jail structure and suicide attempts merely his conjecture? If there is a proven link between the structure and suicide attempts, the community would like to hear it so that we can brainstorm for a solution.

Also in the April 4┬ástatement, Bensley said, “County jails are not the place for people with mental health issues.” The vast majority of people who commit crimes have mental health issues, especially the ones who are frequent flyers and likely to end up in jail for extended stays. To imply that a sheriff’s department has no duty or a limited duty for the welfare of those in jail with mental health issues is horribly misunderstanding the realities of enforcing the law and serving the public, both the criminals and everyone else.

Thank you to the county leaders who are sincerely trying to make a difference.


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1 thought on “Grand Traverse County Announces Jail Task Force”

  1. Sheriff Bensley is way out of touch. Sure Traverse City jail offers inmates the chance to meet with community mental health counselor’s if that inmate requests to do so. You have to write a kite to request a medical slip, fill that out to see a counselor which could take a couple of weeks and then they refer you to the jail house Dr. who is only there on Wednesdays. What a joke that Dr. is. Does nothing for you and will not refill medications that you’ve been on unless it’s in their formulary. By the way, the nurses there can’t even give you over the counter Motrin or Tylenol. Again, fill out a kite, get a med slip to request to see the Dr. and wait until the next Wednesday to see her. What does the Dr. tell you? Have a family member buy a bottle and bring it in for the nurses to disburse. And she gets at least $50 per pt. to do absolutey nothing for them. As far as the high suicide rates and attemps? The correction officers do nothing for an inmate that is asking for help from being bullied. In fact, MOST of them are bullies themselves. There’s no structure as far as making these C.O.’s do their jobs. They’re able to do what they want to with no consequences from the sergeants or the captain.

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