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TRUMBULL COUNTY Reduction in funds prompts sheriff to free some inmates, eliminate units



Published: Tue, February 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Federal prisoners will no longer be housed at the county jail, the sheriff says.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

and STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Budget problems will force Trumbull County to free some nonviolent jail inmates, the county sheriff says.

Sheriff Thomas Altiere met with all Trumbull County judges Friday and told them that he will have to release 66 inmates before layoffs take place. He expects to have to lay off 50 employees in the next two weeks because of budget cuts.

Currently, 260 inmates are housed in the jail, Altiere said.

"I'm being told that my $9 million budget will be cut by $2 million, so I have to take the necessary steps," Altiere said. "I am going to have to close a floor at the jail. I don't have another choice, so I asked the judges to reduce bonds or find other alternative sentencing for some defendants."

The sheriff said, however, that the inmates who will be released will be nonviolent offenders.

"Those accused of murder or other violent crimes will not be released," Altiere said.

Federal prisoners will no longer be held at the jail, the sheriff said.

"We used to house the federal prisoners for extra money, but I can't justify housing them when I can't house all the inmates we have in the county," the sheriff said.

At a second meeting Friday, police chiefs from across the county were warned that the sheriff's department's homicide task force, SWAT team, dive team and Mosquito Lake boat patrol will be casualties of the funding cuts.

"They were just appalled," said Ernie Cook, chief deputy sheriff. "Some bad guys are going to go home because of this. They are just not going to be arrested."

The homicide task force assisted in the investigation of more than 100 deaths last year, said Cook. The SWAT team is regularly called in by police departments to help capture potentially dangerous suspects.

"Any cuts they have are going to affect us," said Niles Police Chief Bruce Simeone.

Disbanding the specialized teams could slow down investigations in larger cities and "devastate" small police departments with less resources of their own, said John Mandopoulos, the Warren police chief.

"They really rely very hard on the sheriff's department," he said.

Commissioners said they had to cut $8 million from the annual budget. The budget is to be released Monday.

Commissioners were told earlier this month that they have $31.1 million to spend on general fund departments this year, about $8 million less than last year, on everything from jail expenses to personnel costs at the sheriff's, auditor's and treasurer's departments.




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