During the January session of 1841 the Eaton County Board of Commissioners allowed William Stoddard $25.00 per year as rent for two rooms in the Eagle Hotel (located on the main four corners in Charlotte) one room was used as jail cell and the second room for the Circuit Courtroom 15x12 each. Former Sheriff Elwin J. Smith reported he talked with Hugh M. Hall (Township Supervisor in 1947). Mr. Hall stated that his father, John Hall was the Sheriff in the years of 1897 & 1898 and had told his son, Hugh, that in the year of 1842 it became evident that some place must be provided for prisoners and in September of 1842 the Board of Commissioners appointed William Stoddard, Alonzo Baker, and A.D. Shaw as a Committee to draft a plan for a jail and receive proposals for building the same and submit them to the Board for approval. In January of 1843 the subject was again taken up and it was finally resolved to submit the question to the people at their coming town meetings.
Before the session closed the sum of four dollars was allowed to W.S. Fairfield for building a temporary jail. It was further told to Sheriff Smith that this temporary jail was a hole that was dug in the ground to hold prisoners (possibly in an intoxicated state) overnight, then a ladder was dropped down to let them out.
In July of 1843 William Stoddard was allowed five dollars for furnishing jail. At this writing we are unsure if this was to furnish the ladder, stool, and bed for the hole. After that, nothing further was said about building a jail for a considerable period.
Plans for a "jail of hewn timber" were prepared in the fall of 1846 and it was resolved that the County proceed to build one after the plans were submitted out of fund due the treasurer and not otherwise appropriated and the building was to be ready by September 1, 1847. It was erected at a cost of several hundred dollars and stood very nearly on the ground occupied by the old jail (on the northwest corner of the Courthouse Square).
It was the Sheriff's residence and jail combined but was a small building and was used until it was entirely unfit for its purpose. Thomas Currey was the builder. Several propositions have also been submitted on the subject of a new jail building, but none were successful until 1871 when the sum of $15,000 was voted by the County for building a new jail and Sheriff's residence. It was completed in 1873, "in tasteful style" and the first cost was altogether about $16,000.
Extensive improvements were made in the portion of the building used as a jail. Between 1874-1875 a steel lining was installed on the inside of the walls and a steel cage was built on the top story with bunks for four prisoners. Three prisoners were put in and all three escaped by morning. Two were captured and escaped again the following night.
In 1886 it was necessary to remodel the jail and a 25-foot extension was added to both floors. Again, in 1947 Myron Rogers of Chester Township remodeled the living quarters and office section. In 1949 Clark Construction Company of Grand Ledge remodeled the jail with steel windows and frames installed.
Eaton County Jail, Charlotte, Mich 1873
In 1961 a new jail and Sheriff's residence was constructed at a cost of $400,000 on the east side of the 1873 jail. This jail was a strong two-story brick, concrete and steel building. The jail was built to house 61 inmates. The architect was Chris King of Vermontville and the builder was H.T. Graham of Lansing.
In 1987 Eaton County voters passed a millage for the existing Eaton County Sheriff's Office located at 1025 Independence, Charlotte, Michigan next to the new County Courthouse. The Sheriff Department was in operation in July of 1989 and inmates were moved into the jail in January of 1990. The current jail facility is capable of holding 225 inmates and has been planned so that it can be enlarged. Currently the average inmate population is 198 prisoners.
Eaton County Sheriff's Office & Jail, 1989
In 2006, Eaton County voters passed a millage renewal to expand the Jail to include an additional 142 beds. The Groundbreaking Ceremony took place on June 20, 2007.
The new expanded jail will accommodate 366 inmates. Completion of the project is expected to be in August of 2008.