Protesters rallying today against plans to build new Wayne County jail

Protesters are gathering in downtown Detroit today to rally against a proposed new jail and criminal justice complex that they say will “line the pockets” of billionaire Dan Gilbert at the expense of more important government resources.

Opponents argue that Wayne County’s plan to spend hundreds of millions of taxes dollars on a jail complex comes at the expense of people in need.

“Enough is enough! Our communities have urgent needs, and they aren’t going to be solved with more cages,” protest organizers wrote on Facebook. “Our tax dollars should be going towards the things we need to survive and thrive, not toward lining the pockets of the likes of Dan Gilbert.”

The protest, which is organized by the Michigan Abolition Alliance  and No New Wayne County Jail, is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the county’s unfinished jail complex at St. Antoine and Gratiot. The rally will begin with a discussion on better ways to use tax resources and will be followed by a “noise demonstration” and march. Posters are encouraged to bring signs and “anything you want that’s loud.”

Wayne County officials are weighing two plans for a new jail and law enforcement complex. One plan is to finish building the stalled 2,000-bed jail at Gratiot and I-375 near the county courthouse. Construction ceased in 2013 because county officials couldn’t contain the costs, spending $100 million more than was planned.

Now Gilbert, who owns about 90 properties downtown, wants to build a “state-of-the-art, consolidated criminal justice center” on different property in exchange for $300 million and the site of the unfinished jail. Gilbert and others want to convert the unfinished jail site into a soccer stadium and entertainment district.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.