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3 judges pave way for layoffs, release of prisoners

Published: Wed, May 19, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.




Three federal judges have cleared the way for a mass layoff of Mahoning County sheriff’s deputies and for closing of the minimum security jail and half of the main jail.

The panel supervised the jail under a consent decree that settled an inmate lawsuit concerning jail crowding. But it has refused to extend that decree.

With the three-year decree having expired Monday, layoff notices will be issued to nearly 100 deputies by the end of this week, with a June 3 effective date, said Maj. James Lewandowski, jail warden.

That figure will be reduced somewhat from the 101 layoffs that had been proposed in March because at least six deputies have quit and taken other jobs since then due to the uncertainty of their employment in the sheriff’s office, he added. The sheriff employs about 300 people.

“If we wish to remain constitutional and maintain a safe environment inside the jail for staff and inmates, we’re going to have to reduce the inmate population commensurate with the remaining available staff,” Lewandowski said.

In an affidavit filed with the federal court on Monday, Lewandowski said the layoff letters must be issued by Friday for layoffs to take effect June 3 if the sheriff’s office is to stay within its $11,811,879 budget for 2010. The sheriff spent $17,348,732 in 2009.

The layoffs and closures would reduce the jail capacity from 602 to 252 inmates, Lewandowski said.

“There will be less room for misdemeanant offenders and non-violent felons from every court in this county,” he said. However, he added that people charged with violent felonies will not be released from jail.

“We’re also exploring our ability to transfer inmates to other county jails in Ohio,” where rates range from $50 to $110 per inmate per day, plus transportation, Lewandowski added.

Another option being considered is releasing inmates from round-the-clock confinement to the day-reporting program, under which inmates perform tasks such as litter pickup and graffiti removal, said Paul J. Gains, county prosecutor.

“The sheriff is going to have to run a constitutional jail, meaning that they cannot be racked and stacked,” Gains said of jail inmates.

“Every elected official has to be cognizant of the fact that these defendants have constitutional rights,” Gains said. “The constitution protects inmates from overcrowding.”

On Tuesday, the three federal judges, Dan Aaron Polster, David D. Dowd Jr. and Alice M. Batchelder, released the ruling, in which they refused to extend the decree, which required that county jail facilities be fully open and staffed.

The three judges said they had no basis to extend the decree, for which the inmates’ lawyers requested a one-year extension and the county requested the one-year extension with modifications.

However, the judges said they would retain jurisdiction to rule later on the inmates’ lawyers’ motion that the county be found in contempt of the decree while it was in effect.


1author50(1121 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

What a joke... 3 Judges who probably never have visited the jail, yet alone Mahoning County are hoodwinked by Gains, Tablack, local judges and the three commissioners into actually believing the only way to solve the money problems is to cut the jail into half.

Here we go again!

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2UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

The 1/2% passed and the tax and spenders are still sticking it to the citizens. Such a deal!

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3boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Every homeowner in Boardman, Canfield, Austintown and Poland should go out and buy a gun and a no trespassing sign. If they wont keep the prisoners locked up, there won't be space for those protecting their property either.

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4boardmanguy39(2 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

These comments are ridiculous! There are plenty of inmates that are there because they owed a fine over a traffic ticket! Go buy a gun thats obsurd! Violent offenders wont be released! Money is no reason to lock people up!

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5boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

um, its ABSURD, and no it isn't. If you think there isn't more than 252 Violent offenders in Mahoning county right now, you are nuts. This summer you will see the stats skyrocket, and the courts will be even fuller every day. Drug use will rise, because no one will get locked up for it, it's a non violent crime. When druggies run out of money, houses and cars get robbed. Another nonviolent crime.

Not in my backyard.

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6digger(9 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

The judges failed the public trust by not choosing to make a decision on the criminals restitution for their crimes. The public fully expects the convicted to pay for their actions, the judge,s are not accountants,the local government is responsible to effect the budget. Should a funding be needed help the community with leadership .

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71970mach1(1005 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm confused. I thought sales tax passing would prevent this. What a mess.

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8boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Smith & Wesson and Walther are my security consultants. Its not a 100% crime free plan, but they sure move faster than I do.

The key here is to proactively fight the seeds that we as a society plant that make crime an acceptable alternative. Laying off those who guard the criminals we have locked up is not acceptable. Sentencing someone to a term of incarceration and then letting them go early is not an alternative.

When you break the law, you must pay for your crime. Punishment that doesn't punish harshly creates an acceptable risk for those who have nothing to lose.

Make criminals who are incarcerated work off their sentences. For free. The products and services they provide should be sold on the open market to pay for the facilities and officers who guard them. This will not only provide an alternative solution to the criminal lifestyle, it will solve the financial issues that keep officers out of work and jails shut down.

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9Boomer(17 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

where to begin. @author50, why would the federal judges visit the jail in the first place? It is not the responsibility of the federal government to micromanage a county official's job. The fact is, they should have never been in the position to oversee the job of the sheriff in the first place. You need to assign blame where it belongs. Maybe the sheriff should have started cutting unnecessary programs a long time ago?

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10TheCritic(23 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Most people in jail are there for non-violent crimes or for violations of probation. Therefore to go out and arm yourselves is a distorted assessment of the situation.

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11boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Robbery is a non violent crime.
If I wake up and find someone violating my home or automobile, they might get violent. Why shouldn't I arm myself? I don't want to show up at that party emptyhanded do I?

Also, Don't you think that if a few residences get robbed in my neighborhood and the perps get caught in the act and leave in bodybags with 1/2 of a head, The criminals might now avoid my neighborhood? I feel safe saying yes to that question. I don't care if it's someone's kid, I don't care if it's someone's brother, I don't care if its someones father, If you rob from me, be prepared to leave my property without a pulse. That is a chance you take when you become a criminal.

Until the local, state and federal government starts taking crime seriously, it's up to us to protect our own.

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12ytown1(398 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Voter Ignorance

paulb wrote:What happened to all the tax money voters just renewed in most recent election?

Voters approve the sales tax and this silly jail issue still exists.

Duh, this was a renewal tax, or in words you may understand, no new or additional taxes. This is the same tax that was already on the books, no additional revenue.

All you ignorant voters passed this tax after all of the smoke and mirror talk of the massive layoff and then delaying it? There was no delay, they had to get approvals from the 3 judge panel all along and that was going to take time, and they knew all along that nothing was going to change. Layoffs were going to happen unless they could find new revenue.

That will be coming out shortly, give them time to scare the H*** out of all of you ignorant taxpayers to give them more.

The days of rampant growth in county cronies and union contracts (Mostly Insurance and PERS Benefits) went on for way too long with no fear that the monies would dry up. This situation is atypical all over the country, from small villages to the largest states, the chickens are coming home to roost so to speak.

The WRTA sales tax is doing the same thing, wait till that tax is repealed after all of the waste is exposed and they have no more stimulus money to grab at to inflate themselves with.

Let's Go Vindy, do you job of being a true investigative reporter, not another RAH RAH mouthpiece for the county spreading the fear. Show these people for what they really are. And no I am not one bit jealous of the government workers, I just do not believe that mismanagement should be allowed to run a muck.

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13author50(1121 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

The Fed(s) -- especially the 3 Judge panel has been holding this county hostage for a long, long time. Why didn't Gains, et al ever attempt to appeal their decision to a higher court?

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14city_resident(528 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

"Someone needs to audit the county jail and/or explain why 26% and upcoming a mere 13% of the space is being used to house inmates. The county could have saved a small fortune in building and annually in maintaining a smaller jail. That jail was not built to house 250 inmates, but rather 1000-3000 LEGALLY."

How many jails have you designed? Can you provide references to design standards that state the average jail facility should have 50% of the space dedicated to inmate housing? Have you seen plans for the Mahoning County Jail, or are you just using the numbers provided by the architect? How much of the space is used for the other functions you mentioned earlier? (i.e. kitchen, admin. circulation, etc.)

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15walter_sobchak(2716 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

My company has done work in numerous jail;s and prisons. When I toured this facility prior to its opening, I thought it was an inappropriate design. Most of the detention facilities we see are two stories high with small mezzanines to access the upper level of cells. The units are kind of triangular in plan and are like pods that can be repeated. The rest of the construction is built one story, slab on grade and is less expensive. This jail was built on a postage stamp lot and went vertical. It has no exterior courtyards or workout areas. So, each detention level has to have a work-out/basketball court area that is under roof and needs to be heated, cleaned, etc. I still don't understand why they built it at this location, in such proximity to YSU, when there are ample areas close to downtown that have few, if any, structures on them. Then, the inmates could be spread out on exterior areas where they can play basketball and exercise. All that is needed are fences and razor wire!

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16kornersburgkid(57 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

How about laying off a couple of Mahoning County Commissioners? Do we really need 3? We got what's his name--Tablack? to do some more dirty work for the County. Let him work for his 6-figure income.

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17city_resident(528 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

walter, thanks for clarifying. Who made the decision to build at that location?

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