By PETER H. MILLIKEN
In federal-court filings, Mahoning County and the city of Youngstown have opposed a one-year extension of the consent decree that settled a class-action lawsuit by inmates concerning county-jail crowding.
Last week, lawyers for the inmates asked the federal court to extend the decree by one year because they said the county’s recession-induced budget crisis makes it likely that jail operations won’t meet constitutional standards.
The inmates’ lawyers, Robert Armbruster and Thomas Kelley of Akron, said federal-court supervision is necessary to prevent inmates from being housed under dangerous conditions.
The three-year consent decree, which was approved by a panel of three federal judges and is set to expire May 17, requires that the jail be fully open and staffed.
“Because there are no current and ongoing violations of a federal right that exist within the Mahoning County jail, there is simply no legal justification or support for the extension of the consent decree,” argued Gina DeGenova Bricker, an assistant county prosecutor.
Armbruster and Kelley said the county is in contempt of the decree because deputies have insufficient continuing education; staffing is short by at least 14 deputies; inmates don’t get outdoor recreation frequently enough; and jail building maintenance is inadequate.
But Bricker said in her Friday filing that county officials have either complied with the decree or taken “all reasonable steps within their power to so comply” within the limitations of the county budget. Bricker said minimum jail standards don’t require outdoor recreation.
“Terminating judicial oversight is an objective to be affirmatively strived for, not simply an event that should be welcomed if it happens to occur,” said Iris Torres Guglucello, city law director, and Anthony J. Farris, deputy city law director.
“The laws of the state of Ohio are the most effective way to prevent problems that could be caused by any potential lack of staffing,” according to the city’s filing.