MAHONING COUNTY JAIL Report offers solutions to ease overcrowding
Officers are encouraged to give summonses, to keep people out of jail.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Proposals to alleviate overcrowding at the Mahoning County Jail include not housing juveniles, parole violators and nonsupport offenders.
The working group formed to offer solutions also suggests opening two closed pods at the jail and designating a certain number of beds for Youngstown inmates charged with violating city ordinances. The city would pay a to-be-determined daily rate for the beds. The pay-to-stay program would extend to Campbell and Struthers.
The suggestions are contained in a 23-page report filed Monday in Akron federal court. The working group -- comprising mostly county and city officials -- was formed at the behest of Toledo attorney Vincent M. Nathan, special master overseeing the jail. Nathan is acting as a fact-finder for U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr., who is taking steps to make the overcrowded and understaffed jail constitutionally sound.
Dowd appointed Nathan after inmates won a class-action lawsuit in March. The judge capped the jail population at 296; it can hold 564.
Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. is quoted in Monday's report as saying that officers have been encouraged to give court summonses to avoid having arrestees booked at the jail. He said this has caused many of those charged not to appear in court.
He suggests house arrest or Community Corrections Association, a halfway facility on Market Street, for such defendants who fail to appear in court. He noted that officials would have to come up with the funding.
Boardman Police Chief Jeffrey L. Patterson said crime is up in his community because of the emergency inmate release mechanism necessitated by Judge Dowd's limiting the jail population to 296. He said in Monday's report that burglaries were up 11 percent for the first six months of the year, and breaking and entering was up 208 percent.
Patterson echoed Bush's frustration at having officers make arrests, only to see the inmates released within hours.
Sheriff Randall A. Wellington is trying to work out an inmate swap with other jurisdictions to make sure pods are filled. The plan would house female inmates elsewhere and take in male inmates. The jail currently has 28 female inmates in a pod that can hold 60.
Richard J. Billak, CCA chief executive officer, has suggested opening the closed misdemeanant jail at an annual cost of $1.3 million. The daily cost per bed would be $38.36.
Progress is being made in remedying the jail's problems, but a lack of funds is impeding the process, the report states.
Prosecutor Paul J. Gains' solution to speed things up in the criminal justice system was to hire five more assistants, which puts two in each of the five common pleas courts.
Judge Dowd recommended that the common pleas judges consider asking the Ohio Supreme Court to appoint a permanent visiting judge to hear criminal matters on a short-term basis. He also suggested that the courts consider doing their own arraignments.
Common pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney indicated she would bring the suggestions back to her colleagues for consideration.
Long pretrial incarcerations
Nathan, in a recent report to the judge, said information the jail was able to supply shows "astonishingly long pretrial incarcerations." He cited one man booked in March 2003 on charges of probation violation, rape and gross sexual imposition who is still there awaiting a suppression hearing set for Oct. 25.
Nathan suggested that a warning system be put into place that will signal when an inmate has spent an exceptionally long time in the jail. He said the system could save substantial amounts of money.