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TRUMBULL COUNTY Cutbacks to force jail to transfer prisoners



Published: Wed, February 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The sheriff's department layoffs take effect this weekend.

WARREN -- The Trumbull County Sheriff's Department plans to ship as many as 144 prisoners to jails outside Trumbull County.

Staff layoffs mean the jail downtown will be able to accept fewer prisoners.

Already the jail population has been thinned from 350 to 250, said Ernest Cook, chief of operations.

Eventually the jail population will be reduced to 126 (78 male, 48 female).

The sheriff's department will furlough 27 employees Saturday and 31 Sunday to address a $5.4 million cut in its budget this year. That cut also eliminated road patrols.

No federal inmates

Staff cuts at the jail also have scuttled an arrangement the county had with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and U.S. Marshals Service for housing federal prisoners.

"We lost our $1.5 million contract, and I doubt we'll ever get it back," Cook said.

Trumbull County's jail is taxpayer-funded, and it won't hold federal prisoners if that means turning away local prisoners, he explained.

That position raises another issue: where to put people the local judges sentence to jail?

The sheriff is obligated to take court-ordered prisoners but will contract with other jails that have open bed space, should the county's space be exceeded.

Cook said the department needs to meet with judges to work out a plan for transferring some prisoners to jails throughout the state.

Cost of transfers

Sheriff Thomas Altiere has warned commissioners that they would have to pay an additional $2.8 million this year to house 144 prisoners (at $65 per day) elsewhere.

This figure is based on cutting the average daily population without the federal inmates from 270 to 126.

Also, there would be the additional cost for out of county transport.

"It costs a heck of a lot more to send them out than it does to watch them yourself," Cook noted.

The sheriff's department had wanted an additional $1.95 million to keep its jail population at 244 (196 male, 48 female), he said.

Cook noted that Geauga County has 12 available beds; Ashtabula, 25; Jefferson, 15; and Miami County, 70.

Some people may have to travel two or three hours to visit people in jail, Cook said.

The sheriff operated on $8.4 million last year, before county income was lost from a half-percent sales tax defeated by voters in November 2003.




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