Because of layoffs and funding cuts, about half of the jail was being used, the jurors' report says.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Restoring funding and using the entire jail should be a priority for the sheriff's department, grand jurors say.
A Trumbull County grand jury toured the jail June 24 as part of its duties and found the crowded conditions "unsafe and unsanitary."
"Unfortunately, due to funding cuts and layoffs in the sheriff's department, only half of this facility is currently in use," the grand jury report stated. "This leads to serious overcrowding, overworked staff members and additional problems. An area that was intended to hold 72 inmates contained 118 on visitation day."
The report notes that the 118 inmates were guarded by two correction officers.
"Prisoners were observed sleeping in boat-like beds that were scattered all over the floor," the report stated.
Ernie Cook, chief of jail operations, said he agrees with the report.
"This report is what I've been saying for the last six months, but the commissioners control the budget," Cook said.
Sheriff Thomas Altiere could not be reached.
Commissioner James Tsagaris said because of the county's financial situation there is no more money for jail staffing or improvements.
The jail was constructed in 1997. It is designed to hold 248 inmates.
An alternative move
Since funding has been cut, the sheriff had to close down a few floors, Cook said. He noted that if a cell is not available, inmates are grouped into a pod and given cots.
The grand jury also stated that because of funding cuts there is limited time to provide extra services.
"Opportunities for self-improvement and rehabilitation have been eliminated," the report states.
This is not the first time the grand jury has expressed concerns about the jail.
In January 2003, a county grand jury toured the facility as part of its duty and noted the jail was overcrowded. That grand jury stated the facility was housing 310 prisoners.