Frequently Asked Questions

How do you all define “safety” and “justice”?

We believe that safety is:

  • Community power based on deep relationships: neighbors looking out for each other
  • Stability: feeling a sense of place and belonging
  • Having access to services and programs that we need (and knowing that others have what they need)
  • Having skills to transform conflict and harm in healthy ways

Safety is not:

  • Increased police presence
  • Surveillance (being watched by people in power or with authority)
  • Privatizing public spaces and services

We believe that justice is:

  • Remedying harm, accountability
  • Care & support for trauma
  • Getting support for mental health needs
  • Transformation of society towards culture where we value and uplift all people, of all ages, abilities, gender, cultural background, or status.

Justice is not:

  • Prosecutions and verdicts
  • Cages and permanent exile
  • Criminalizing trauma and mental health needs

What is the Wayne County Criminal Justice Complex?
Wayne County has announced plans to build a $533-million dollar complex, including a new jail, on East Warren Ave. near the I-75 service drive. The complex will include a 2,280-bed adult detention center, a 160-bed juvenile detention center, as well as county courtrooms, Wayne County Sherriff’s office and other county offices.

Why is it being developed?
Wayne County currently has 3 other jail facilities that have been allowed to crumble and as a result endanger the lives of the people forced to stay in it. County officials and developers argue that the new complex is needed because of the deterioration of the other facilities, but the horrific state of the other jails reflects the contempt that government has for people and the disregard for the lives of people who get caught up in the system of punishment and social control. This new complex comes after the failure of the last Wayne County jail development, known as the “fail jail.” Construction was started on that structure in 2011, and stopped in 2013 due to yet more gross mismanagement.

Who is responsible for the development and construction of the complex?
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans brokered a deal with Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures in 2018 for the exchange of the “fail jail” site. The deal also was made possible by Detroit City Council, who swapped city-owned land to the County in order for the complex to be built. In June 2018, by a 14-1 vote, the Wayne County Commission approved a development agreement with Rock Ventures to build the new complex. Barton Marlow is the general contractor for the development.

What is the current status of the project?
At the end of last year, the demolition of the fail jail was completed, and contractors broke ground on the complex development. The complex is set to be completed in 2022.

What are the other possibilities or alternatives to this jail project?
Instead of this jail project, Wayne County could invest in programs that promote safety and justice for communities beyond incarceration and police. Wayne County could invest in services for residents that address the root causes of harm and violence. When asked, intergenerational groups of Detroit residents suggested that the county invest in housing, fully funded schools and daycare centers, mental health support services, physical places to address physical, mental and emotional health needs, efficient and affordable regional public transportation. Do you have ideas for other possibilities or alternatives to this jail project? Share them with us!

Check out these videos for more ideas from Detroiters about what the County could be investing in instead of incarceration.