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Tally of inmates freed from jail reaches 93



Published: Fri, April 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Judge said 10 inmates must remain in the jail.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County officials have released 93 prisoners from the county jail as of today.

Last week, judges Maureen A. Cronin, R. Scott Krichbaum, James C. Evans, Jack M. Durkin and Maureen AA. Sweeney signed an emergency-release mechanism to get inmates out of the jail, if they meet certain criteria.

The county's financial crisis, attributed to the loss of the half-percent sales tax that expired last year, resulted in major cuts to the sheriff's and other general fund departments. Sheriff Randall A. Wellington has had to lay off deputies. A federal judge also ruled the understaffed and overcrowded jail unconstitutional, so the sheriff has had to reduce the inmate population.

Figures from the common pleas court shows the judges freed or transferred 78 inmates without formal hearings this week. An additional 15 were expected to be freed or transferred after hearings Thursday and today, bringing the total to 93.

Some of the inmates were released on their own recognizance and told when to next appear in court or return to jail to finish their sentences.

Others were placed on house arrest or sent to Community Corrections Association on Market Street for rehabilitation programs.

Some others were sent to or are waiting to be sent to prison. They had been in the jail awaiting formal sentencing.

Judge Cronin had a formal status hearing Thursday on the prisoners she had sentenced to the jail.

Of the 18 inmates that appeared before her, four were sent to CCA, one released on his own recognizance and two others were awaiting transfer to prison after a sentencing hearing scheduled for today.

Ten inmates, however, did not qualify for release because of the severity of their crimes and were returned to the county lockup. The judge put one person on a five-year probation, but ruled he must return to the jail to serve 13 additional days once the sheriff can keep people in jail.

Judges received forms Wednesday stating that inmates scheduled to be released within 24 hours from the jail through the emergency release would be let out following one of the 13 ascending steps for release as developed by the trial judges.

The 13 steps involve releasing prisoners charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent crimes.

The judges also had to specify any special conditions to be placed on inmates before those prisoners were released.

Wellington has said, however, that if the half-percent sales tax for five years fails at the May 3 primary election, some of the nearly 300 violent offenders still jailed may have to be released.




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