MAHONING COUNTY Jury: Tax loss to affect jail
The jail's inmate population far exceeds its capacity.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Mahoning County grand jury has concluded that loss of sales tax revenue will negatively impact the jail's ability to meet state standards.
The grand jury concluded its four-month period of service in December. Included in that time period was a visit to the county jail.
The county's collection of the half-percent sales tax officially ended last week. The tax brought in between $13 million and $14 million a year. Voters turned down the tax in March and November, and the outgoing board of county commissioners failed to impose it as an emergency.
Charles J. Ramsey, grand jury foreman, gave a report on the jail to Judge Maureen A. Cronin of common pleas court, who was the presiding judge during the jury's term.
Ramsey wrote that four items stood out for jurors during their visit:
UThe jail was built to hold 432 inmates, but there were about 620 incarcerated at the time of the visit. "This appears to be a double-edged sword in that as incarcerations increase our homicides decrease."
UMany jail areas meet only minimum state requirements. The facility, however, was clean and did offer many amenities to the inmates.
UMentally disturbed inmates have to be housed in a jail instead of in a mental institution.
UJail services, such as security, laundry, food preparation and serving, were performed at a high level. If incarcerations continue, however, then "additional funding would be required to maintain the same level" of services. With the cloud of cutbacks facing the jail, "it is obvious that standards fall dramatically," he wrote.
Ramsey concluded his report by writing, "We have said many times that our system of justice, both the courts and the jail, are going to be seriously injured with the loss of the sales tax revenue."