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CCA seeks to reduce population



Published: Tue, February 18, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The CCA office on Market Street offers electronic monitoring.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Community Corrections Association is researching a pretrial release system that would reduce the number of Mahoning County jail inmates.

"We'd save about $60 a day for each inmate we can pull out," said Richard J. Billak, CCA chief executive officer. "If we pull out 100 a year, that's $1.8 million."

At any given time, roughly 70 percent of Mahoning County jail inmates are awaiting court action, not serving a sentence. The state average is 51 percent. Most remain in jail because they are unable to post bond. Others have a hold on them from the Adult Parole Authority, another county or federal marshals.

The main jail on Fifth Avenue holds 476 inmates and the misdemeanant jail on Commerce Street holds 96. The combined daily population is typically 550.

CCA is a halfway facility on Market Street. It houses federal and state inmates completing the last few months of their sentence and provides a variety of services to the Mahoning County criminal justice system, including electronically monitored home confinement, community service monitoring and day classes.

Summit's system

CCA was to host a meeting today with Steve Orbon, coordinator for Summit County Common Pleas Court pretrial release. The idea is to find out what methods work there and put them in place here to prevent jail overcrowding and save money, Billak said. Facts will be shared at a county commissioners' meeting on Feb. 28, he said.

Warden Alki Santamas said Summit County uses a form that assigns points to a series of questions to determine if an inmate is a flight risk. The pretrial release program is considered for those accused of nonviolent crimes, he said.

If pretrial inmates can be released and some of the open cells filled with federal inmates, the county would earn about $75 for each, Billak said. The budget hole, he said, could be filled with money generated by federal inmates.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington will lay off nearly 60 deputies March 3 as a result of budget cutbacks. He has said the cost is about the same whether the jail houses 450 or 550 inmates because the $61-per-inmate daily rate is an amount prorated on utilities, food, guards and so forth.

Home confinement

Electronically monitored home confinement, meanwhile, is one way to keep tabs on defendants, Billak said. The cost is $4 to $7 per day, paid by the user; a small fund is available for indigent defendants.

CCA's annual report for 2002 shows that electronic monitoring dropped to 202 defendants from 227 the year before. "Given our jail crowding conditions, we were wondering why CCA resources were not used," Billak said of the decrease. "We should have maintained last year's number."

meade@vindy.com




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