'Apparent suicide' at Wayne County Jail; inmates moved from Hamtramck facility

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — A 35-year-old man killed himself at the Wayne County Jail's division 1 facility downtown on Thursday, officials said Friday.

The man's body was found just before 1 p.m., said Deputy Chief Dennis Ramel of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

The man's death is considered an "apparent suicide," Ramel said. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office will determine his official cause of death and did not immediately offer the man's name.

The union representing 540 Wayne County deputies questioned whether a sudden change in circumstance contributed to the man's death.

Wayne County has three adult jails.

A sign in front of the Wayne County Jail - Division 3 William Dickerson Facility in Hamtramck.

Division 1, at 570 Clinton, houses moderately severe inmates. Division 2, also downtown at 525 Clinton, houses what staffers call "the worst of the worst" inmates. Division 3 in Hamtramck had traditionally housed misdemeanor inmates. 

During the last week, Division 3 inmates have all been moved to Division 1.

There are still some inmate "trustees" who are bused in to work at Division 3. But it no longer houses inmates due to a staffing shortage.

Wayne County is trying to hire 200 deputy sheriffs at the county jail, and exceeds its overtime budget by millions annually due to the shortage.

More:New sheriff confronts 'critical staffing shortages' in Wayne County's jails

"We can't staff three buildings," Ramel said. "We've got to get some new blood into this agency, and we've got to do this quickly. We can't wait for the move to the new jail. That's more than a year away."

At Division 3, said Cpl. Robin Hornbuckle, first vice president at the union, inmates are allowed more autonomy. They can walk themselves to doctor's appointments or classes or work assignments. 

Going from Division 3 permissiveness to the stricter setting of Division 1 can be a "rude awakening," Hornbuckle said.

"That change in environment could play a part," Cox said.

As of Friday morning, the two jails house 1,117 people, Ramel said. The tether monitoring unit keeps tabs on an average daily population of 1,700-plus people.