Judges OK plan to release inmates early
The first to be released will be those recently shipped to other counties.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County's common pleas court judges have approved an emergency policy to allow Sheriff Randall Wellington to start releasing inmates from the county jail.
A judgment entry signed Wednesday by the trial division judges -- R. Scott Krichbaum, Maureen A. Cronin, Jack M. Durkin, James C. Evans and Maureen A. Sweeney -- said the release policy is to take place immediately "to resolve the lack of staffing due to inadequate funding at the Mahoning County Jail."
The early-release plan would have been discussed when the judges had their monthly meeting Monday, but the urgency of the situation prompted them to act immediately.
Wellington said he will immediately start releasing prisoners in accordance with a 13-step ascending range used to release prisoners in 1999 from the jail on Fifth Avenue and in the early 1990s from the old county jail on West Boardman Street.
The sheriff said he will follow the 13 stages until he reaches his goal of having about 140 prisoners at the lockup.
The sheriff said he expects to release most -- if not all -- of the roughly 162 inmates shipped out in the past week or so to be housed in other counties' jails. He said his department will provide the inmates transportation back to Youngstown.
The savings to the county is likely to be about $10,000 a day, figuring the average cost of incarceration elsewhere is $62 per inmate per day.
The sheriff said some inmates housed in the jail may still be sent to stay in other counties' jails if they don't meet the release criteria and if keeping them here means the jail is too full for the number of guards it has left.
The sheriff has laid off 50 deputies and expects to lay off another 62 on April 10.
The transfer of prisoners to other jails prompted the commissioners to ask the judges Monday to sign off on a prisoner-release policy to stop Mahoning from incurring the cost of housing prisoners in other jails that would exceed the amount of money allocated to the sheriff's current $7.5 million budget.
Under the release policy, the first inmates to be let go are those confined in jail on bond on nonviolent misdemeanors awaiting arraignment and held subject to court order or warrant. They would be issued a summons to appear in court at that court's next regular session.
Next to be released would be any inmate determined not to be indigent and serving time in lieu of payment of fines and costs who has completed serving the initial sentence.
The third release mechanism would be inmates confined for conviction of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses who have served 70 percent of their sentence.
The release criteria extends to all inmates confined for violent misdemeanors. They will be put on a waiting list and recalled to jail once there is room for them.
Inmates who are in jail for violent crimes or who are awaiting to be taken to prison will not be released.