The judges aren't interested in providing the money.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Democratic mayoral candidate is asking the three city municipal court judges to give $1 million they've collected over the past seven years for a new justice facility to rent more jail space to house city criminals.
Because of Mahoning County's budget shortfalls, numerous prisoners and suspects are being released from the county jail. Youngstown police officials say the "revolving-door" policy at the county jail is part of the reason there are 25 homicides so far this year compared with 22 for all of 2004.
State Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, the Democratic mayoral candidate, asked the city municipal court judges to use the $1 million they've been saving since 1998.
"The neighborhoods need the money more than the judges need a new courthouse," Hagan said. "The neighborhoods and this community need the money. I want to see the bad guys in jail."
The money would be used to pay the county, the Corrections Corporation of America and/or the Community Corrections Association to house city prisoners, Hagan said. The candidate also wants to work with the county to reopen the minimum-security jail.
Judges Robert P. Milich and Robert A. Douglas Jr., who serves as the municipal court's presiding and administrative judge, say they have no interest in giving the money collected from the $14 court fee for the proposed justice facility to house Youngstown prisoners.
"I don't think it's a good idea to take approaches like this," Judge Milich said. "It's feeding an addiction to a dysfunctional justice system. Also, we've got one of the worst court facilities in the state."
The judges are frustrated with the county jail system, but providing the $1 million would only be a short-term answer to a serious problem, they said.
The judges plan to use the $1 million collected toward the purchase of land for a justice facility that would eventually include the municipal court, clerk of court's office, police department and city prosecutor's office. The cost for the project is estimated at $5 million to $7 million.
Obtaining the $1 million was one part of Hagan's crime initiative released Monday.
Hagan listed numerous proposals in his initiative including using more technology, restructuring the police department to help reduce response time, and taking more supervisors and special unit personnel and putting them on patrol.
He also wants to partner with the school board to use its buildings as neighborhood learning centers, establish neighborhood-oriented policing programs, and create special court divisions.
Police officials said last week that several of the changes suggested by Hagan and the five other mayoral candidates are already implemented, in the process of being implemented or are not feasible.
When asked about Hagan's plan, Lt. Robin Lees said the department will not "get drawn into a police debate with each mayoral candidate."