Many details of the plan still must be worked out, including who would run the facility.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Corrections Board has unanimously agreed to look into the possibility of transforming an empty private prison in Youngstown into a multicounty jail.
The board appointed a subcommittee Friday to pursue the suggestion first floated by Sheriff Thomas Altiere last week.
"We thought that it was an excellent idea," said Vince Peterson, the board chairman. "The exploratory committee will look at it from a feasibility standpoint, a financial standpoint."
The 2,106-bed medium-security prison has been empty since July 2001 when the federal government transferred the last of its 1,700 inmates from the private facility, built in the 1990s by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.
Some officials now hope it could be operated jointly by area sheriffs as a multijurisdiction jail to ease crowding at county prisons. It is not yet clear who would run the facility or what jurisdictions would contribute inmates or funding.
"These are all questions we are looking at," said Ernest Cook, chief deputy sheriff.
Here's the situation
The idea is endorsed by David Troutman, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Ohio, which encompasses 40 counties. He said the shortage of jail space has forced him to use jails several hours away for prisoners awaiting trial in federal courts in Youngstown, Akron or Cleveland. "We need more space," he said.
The 5-year-old Trumbull County Jail is already filled to its maximum and occasionally has to turn away prisoners arrested on misdemeanor charges. Two weeks ago, there were 330 prisoners booked into the 280-bed facility, and the inmate count occasionally tops 350, Cook said.
The new Mahoning County Jail also is full, he said.
"The number of prisoners is just growing," Cook added.