Sunday, April 6, 2003
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Two of Trumbull County's three commissioners have no problem with the county jail's taking in federal inmates, as long as it turns a profit.
"As long as the funding for it looks solid, I'm in favor of it," said Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr.
Commissioner Michael O'Brien agrees.
At the regular weekly meeting of county commissioners Wednesday, two directors of the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's unit that represents corrections officers questioned why commissioners have not embraced the plan.
"You have got a $25 million facility; you should generate money with it," said John Spelich, a corrections officer and union director.
Taking federal inmates would allow the jail to reopen the closed fourth floor and recall perhaps 15 of the 47 employees laid off this year, said chief deputy Ernest Cook. Bringing the employees back would also help ensure there are beds available for local minimum security inmates, he said.
Commissioner James Tsagaris has said he is not a fan of holding federal prisoners at the jail and he's doubtful the jail could make money doing so. He said Wednesday that he would make up his mind after he sees the numbers.
Five federal prisoners were transferred to the local facility this week, and four more were expected today, jail officials said. An additional 20 from the Immigration and Naturalization Service are expected Monday.
Department officials say they have worked out a deal with the U.S. Marshals Service and the INS to keep 60 federal inmates at a time. The federal government will pay $1.4 million a year for the service, allowing the jail to reopen its fourth floor, Cook said.
Last year, the jail kept about 30 federal prisoners at a time, and the county was paid $750,000.
The money from that program did not go directly to jail expenses, however, and when the sheriff's department's budget was cut, so was the program.