Officials noted that courts and county officials should discuss house arrest and other programs for nonviolent offenders.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The prisoners keep coming, but jail space doesn't.
Several jail administrators from six northeast Ohio counties met Wednesday at the Trumbull County jail to discuss ways to deal with crowding.
"It's a problem that isn't going to go away," said Ernie Cook of the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department.
"Right now we have 296 inmates, 40 more than the ideal amount of 256. Since we have this high amount we have to put beds on the floor to make sure everyone has somewhere to sleep."
Cook and Sheriff Gerry D. Billy, of Licking County, president of the American Jail Association, said mandatory sentences are partly to blame for crowded conditions.
"The law states that deadbeat dads and moms have to go to jail if they don't pay," Billy says. "So now we have more people in jail, but no one is giving the jails more money for additional space."
He noted that mandatory jail time for DUI has helped complicate the problem.
Looking at alternatives: Billy said that to better manage jail populations the courts and jail administrators have to seek alternatives such as house arrest, supervised probation or other programs for nonviolent offenders.
Billy said that in his county he is not only charging inmates for their stay, but also imposing a processing fee.
"When they come to the jail they are charged $30 to be processed," Billy said. "If they want to participate in programs at the jail they have to pay for that, too. We charge for everything we can."
A local credit bureau helps collect the fees.