Jurors report problems at jail
The jail did not receive a good report card from the grand jury.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County jail has several physical and financial problems that should be dealt with, wrote the chairman of a county grand jury.
The grand jurors completed their four-month term Thursday. Before their term expires, they are given a tour of the jail and issue a report.
The jurors had a two-hour visit April 14 and made their report to Judge James C. Evans, who presided over the grand jury's term.
James D'Eramo, foreman, said it was impossible to make a comprehensive report based on the short visit, but the jurors did make several observations.
One was that even though the facility is well built, not all areas are kept clean.
"The floors in the facility are clean, but the baseboard areas are dirty. A special concern is in the hospital and dental areas, which need a good cleaning," D'Eramo wrote. He added that the facility's gymnasium areas and vacant cells in the jail's pods also need scrubbing.
D'Eramo wrote that because the second round of deputy layoffs was stopped by a federal judge, the jurors wondered about the financial effects of the next set of cuts on the jail's operation.
He added the jurors were frustrated to see people who have been indicted set free because of the lack of finances. A federal court order has placed a limit on prisoners kept at the jail commensurate with the number of deputies to watch them.
The county's common pleas judges have approved a release mechanism to ensure the inmate population stays within the court-ordered federal guidelines.
That means many people who commit misdemeanor or other nonviolent crimes are booked into the jail but are later released with summonses to appear in court at a particular time.
Some people who have been released have been re-arrested and charged with new crimes, county officials have said.
The jail, built in the late 1990s, was to house 432 inmates, but has held as many as 800. There are 112 deputies now assigned to the jail, D'Eramo wrote, and the inmate number when the jurors visited was at 296.
Some other observations made by the grand jurors:
UMentally challenged inmates housed in a section of the jail are not receiving the type of services they need.
U Most of the pods where inmates are kept were locked down, but jail officials assured them that inmates are given adequate time outside their cells.
U The plastic-covered pillows issued to inmates are cracked "and emit a definite odor."