Prison Hospital Proposed for Mid-Mich. School

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The former Allen School sits at a crossroads of sorts in Jackson. To the east: Foote Hospital, and to the north: A residential neighborhood.

Now a group of doctors wants to turn the old school into a hospital for prison inmates with chronic illnesses. It might seem a good fit with Foote Hospital nearby, but some who own property in the area say it's a non-starter.

"I don't think a neighborhood and a prison is a good mix. There's a head start across the street," Shelley Job said Tuesday night.

Job lived in the neighborhood for years; now she's trying to sell her home there. She's worried about the value of her property but also about the neighborhood she grew up in.

And Job says if there's a need for a medical facility, it should go to the nearby state prison, not to an old school building.

In order to transform the school, the owners would need a conditional use permit. The mayor says it's premature at this point.

"There's pages of questions that are unanswered," Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin said.

Griffin says his city's planning staff has recommended the city put off a decision on the permit. A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections confirms the idea is in the earliest of stages.

"We haven't made any decisions. No contracts have been signed. No serious discussions have been held. We're just looking at it," spokesman Leo Lalonde said.

Looking at it-- while the department examines whether it needs more beds for sick inmates. Lalonde says that could take "the better part of a year."

But even looking at it might be out of the question now, according to Griffin. He says people living nearby have made their desires clear.

"A comment I've heard is, 'We've lived with the prison facilities in Blackman Township in our backyard, now, they want to be in our front yard.'"

Sentiment with which folks like Shelley Job can agree.

"Why put the prison in the middle of the city? It makes no sense," she said.

Now the plan commission and the state have to decide if it makes sense to them. The commission is holding a public hearing scheduled on the permit for the development Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Opponents plan to rally outside Jackson City Hall at 5 p.m.

News 10 couldn't get a hold of the doctors' group, DJW Real Estate, LLC.