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MAHONING COUNTY Jail pay-for-stay remains on hold



Published: Thu, August 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A pay-for-stay revival in Mahoning County has been afloat since June 2000.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- More than a year ago, Mahoning County commissioners decided to start billing inmates who are locked up in the county jail.

The county hasn't collected any money yet, though, because the pay-for-stay program never got off the ground and no bills were ever sent.

"It's not dead in the water. It just kind of died on the list of priorities," said Commissioner Ed Reese, who first posed the idea of reviving the program in June 2000.

"I'd like to have seen it implemented by now, but there have just been a lot of things going on."

What this is about: Pay-for-stay is a program in which inmates are billed for their time spent at the jail. Those with the ability to pay are required to reimburse the county for the cost of keeping them in jail, with revenue to go toward operation of the jail.

Mahoning County had one of the first pay-for-stay programs in Ohio when it was created in 1997, shortly after a law went into effect allowing such programs.

That program, run by the sheriff's department, was discontinued because it was deemed ineffective. Reese suggested bringing it back last year after hearing Trumbull County commissioners talk of the program's success in their county.

In August 2000, Sheriff Randall Wellington recommended that commissioners hire Intelli-Tech, a Canfield company that specializes in running pay-for-stay programs.

Commissioners were poised to do that, then backed off, saying they wanted to seek bids from other possible contractors.

So far, no bids have been sought and Wellington said he hasn't heard anything from commissioners in months.

Wellington and Reese said there is a possibility of acquiring pay-for-stay software at no cost through the same company that provides food service at the jail.

The sheriff's department would administer the program if the county goes that route, said James Fortunato, purchasing director.

Opposition: Commissioner David Ludt said he is opposed to the idea of billing inmates. He said most won't have the ability to pay, so it's not fair to expect others to foot the bill.

"How many rich people do you see in jail?" he said. "The ones who are in jail are there because they can't afford to post bond and get out."

bjackson@vindy.com




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