The only prison for women in Michigan is so crowded that inmates are living in former TV rooms and offices, the Detroit Free Press reported today.
Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility, near Ann Arbor, has seen a 16% increase in inmates, from about 1,900 in 2011 to 2,200 this year, officials told the Free Press. In order to deal with a lack of space, 306 inmates are living in 44 converted offices, and 56 more live in what used to be TV rooms.
An advocacy group in nearby Ypsilanti said they've received complaints from inmates about overcrowding, and that inmates with mental illnesses are especially affected.
But prison officials deny that there's a major problem. "I wouldn't characterize it as being overcrowded," Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington told a state House of Representatives committee. The prison also plans to add more space soon by converting storage areas, The Associated Press reported.
Nationally, the number of women incarcerated has risen by about 800% between 1977 and 2007, compared to a roughly 400% growth rate for men, according to the Women's Prison Association. In several states, prisons for women are struggling to keep up with increased demand for space.
Haphazard conversions at crowded prisons have been a safety risk elsewhere in the country. A 34-year-old inmate in South Carolina who was being kept in an arraignment room used as a makeshift jail cell hanged himself in September.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.