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TRUMBULL BUDGET CRISIS Judges consider options on inmates



Published: Thu, February 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Once the sheriff's staff is cut, the jail population must go down.

WARREN -- The Trumbull County Sheriff's Department and area judges are in agreement that 144 prisoners must leave the facility by Monday, but where those prisoners will be sent is still up in the air.

Common pleas and municipal court judges from around Trumbull County met Wednesday in Judge Andrew Logan's common pleas courtroom to address reducing the jail population before deputy layoffs that take place this weekend, said Sheriff Thomas Altiere.

The layoffs are attributed to the county's financial crisis and mean the downtown jail will be able to hold fewer prisoners because of specific guard-inmate ratio requirements.

Already the jail population has been thinned from 350 to 250, according to Ernest Cook, chief of operations. Eventually the population will be reduced to 126 (78 male, 48 female).

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

Others willing to house inmates

& quot;According to the Ohio Revised Code, we are allowed to send these inmate to other jails and that is what we are going to have to do, & quot; Altiere said Wednesday after the meeting. & quot;We have asked the judges to first look at their list and decide if they can release any inmates early. The ones we have left, we will have to find other facilities. & quot;

Jails in Ashtabula, Miami, Geauga and Jefferson counties have said they have room available. Trumbull County will have to pay about $65-a-day per inmate to the other counties to house them, Altiere says.

& quot;This will cost the county a considerable amount of money, but we have no choice, & quot; he said.

Altiere said he has warned commissioners that shipping 144 prisoners elsewhere could cost them $2.8 million this year, along with the cost of transporting the prisoners to and from the other counties.

Judge Thomas Gysegem of Warren Municipal Court and Judge Thomas Campbell of Central District Court said they will both look at the inmate list to decide who can be released.

Judge Campbell says he believes he can release about a half a dozen.

& quot;I'm not sure right now, but in the spirit of cooperation I will look, & quot; said Judge Gysegem. & quot;There are some inmates that I just can't let out early," including those with multiple DUIs, those jailed for domestic violence, "or any other violent crime. & quot;

'I think it's ridiculous'

Judge Ronald Rice of the Eastern District Court said he doesn't think there is anyone he can let out.

We "have been watching and have been very careful before we send anyone, because we know of the financial constraints, & quot; he said. & quot;I think it's ridiculous that the county will spend about a million dollars to house these inmates in other jails instead of giving our county jail the money it needs. & quot;

County commissioners could not be reached to comment.

Staff cuts at the jail have scuttled a contract the county had with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal prisoners. Sheriff's officials do not believe they will be able to get that $1.5 million contract back.

The sheriff operated on $8.4 million last year, on a budget approved before voters defeated a half-percent sales tax increase in November 2003.




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