Jail deal changes how city will pay



Youngstown could use up to 221 beds at the county jail under this proposal.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A tentative agreement to resolve the unconstitutional housing issue at the Mahoning County Jail includes significant changes in the way Youngstown pays for its inmates, according to the county sheriff.
The city currently pays 68.84 a day to the county to house inmates at the jail charged or convicted of city ordinances. The city paid less than 50,000 last year to the county, with loud music overwhelmingly the main city ordinance violation. The city is prepared to pay more than twice that amount under the new deal.
The tentative deal calls for the city, effective May 1, to pay the county for meals, about 3 a day, and for "actual medical costs" for up to 71 city inmates not covered under the county's present medical services agreement.
County Sheriff Randall Wellington and county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains interpret the tentative agreement to mean the city won't pay 68.84 a day for any of its first 71 inmates. Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said his interpretation is the city has to pay that flat fee for any of its first 71 inmates charged with violating city ordinances.
The contract includes language regarding the flat fee for city prisoners in excess of 71 but not for the first 71.
Number accepted
If it chooses, the city could house up to 221 inmates at the county main and misdemeanant jails at one time, effective Aug. 1 or earlier if the facility is fully staffed, according to the proposal.
If more than 71 city inmates are at the jail at one time, Youngstown would pay a flat fee of 68.84 a day to the county for each inmate over that number. That 68.84 flat fee, which could change in the future, includes meals and medical costs.
Between now and May 1, the city has 30 beds guaranteed to be available to its prisoners.
Another major change under the proposal is the city would pay to house inmates at the county jail and the now-closed county misdemeanant jail for not only city ordinance violators but also those charged with state misdemeanor charges. There are other scenarios that also would require the city to pay the daily 68.84 fee.
"This is a significant change" to the current contract, said Wellington regarding the city's paying for those charged with state misdemeanors.
On council agenda
City council will consider an ordinance today to permit the three-member board of control to adopt the three-year tentative agreement regarding the housing of city inmates.
The ordinance would also authorize the board of control -- consisting of Mayor Jay Williams, Law Director Iris Torres Guglucello and Finance Director David Bozanich -- to spend about 125,000 annually to house city prisoners at the Mahoning County Jail and its misdemeanant facility. The ordinance doesn't have a cap on the prisoner cost.
Williams said the tentative agreement would only increase the city's annual payment to the county by an additional 20,000 at best.
County commissioners will consider approving the tentative agreement with the city today. The county plans to resume housing federal inmates at the 68.84 daily fee. The federal government would be permitted to house up to 150 of its inmates with the county. The city could displace the federal inmates with its own as long as it pays the 68.84 daily fee, Williams said.
As for "actual medical costs" of city inmates, Williams said the figure is minimal. He anticipates it would cost the city up to 10 a day for meals and medical. Wellington said he couldn't give an estimate on the medical costs.
Inmate lawsuit
Inmates at the county jail won a federal lawsuit two years ago regarding overcrowding. Attorneys for the inmates and a panel of three federal judges must approve the settlement. The proposal is expected to be finalized in a month.
Under the plan, the entire county jail would reopen Aug. 1 and house about 480 inmates. About one-third of the jail has been closed as a result of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit settlement means the county would reopen its misdemeanant jail, that could house another 96 prisoners, also on Aug. 1. That facility stopped housing inmates about two years ago because of a lack of county funding.
On Tuesday, the county reopened a 36-bed pod as part of the tentative deal, Wellington said. The pod is already at full capacity, he said.
Wellington recently hired 10 deputies for the county jail and plans to hire 30 to 40 additional deputies between now and Aug. 1. These are all new hires and won't be taken from deputies at the county courthouse, the juvenile justice center or anywhere else, he said.
The tentative contract gives Wellington the authority to go over the 480-inmate limit for a period of not longer than 24 hours on weekdays or 72 hours on weekends "when arrests are undertaken in a manner that the [county is] unable to plan for an influx of inmates to protect the public."
City and county officials say the failure of a sales tax this year would place the county in financial peril and this agreement, even when it's finalized, would be worthless.
skolnick@vindy.com