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Judge to sheriff: Release inmates, face suit

Published: Thu, May 20, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.




The city is preparing to take legal action if Mahoning County releases any misdemeanor prisoners sentenced to the county jail by municipal judges against the judges’ wishes.

“We have a jail that is supposed to house the people that need to be there. The sheriff is under a statutory obligation to house every single prisoner, and if he’s going to be releasing prisoners, then he’s going to face a lawsuit,” said Judge Elizabeth Kobly, presiding municipal court judge.

Judge Kobly said the city law department is preparing to file a mandamus action at the Ohio Supreme Court to force Sheriff Randall A. Wellington and the county commissioners to meet their obligation to house defendants sentenced to jail by judges in the county.

She said she’d likely also summon the sheriff to contempt-of-court hearings if he releases inmates without her permission.

In addition to those strategies, Iris Torres Guglucello, city law director, said her department also is considering seeking a declaratory judgment in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court specifying the county’s obligation to house inmates.

“We use alternative sentences whenever we can ... But the reality is some people just need to be in jail,” Judge Kobly said. The threat of a jail term is the only available hammer to ensure that defendants comply with alternative sentences, such as day-reporting work detail or electronically monitored house arrest, she said.

Jail space is needed now more than ever as the prime summer crime season will soon be here, the judge added.

The judge said a jail term may be the only way to get the attention of a defendant, such as the man she jailed Tuesday for an 18th driving-under-license- suspension conviction.

Defendants lose respect for the justice system when the courts lack the ability to jail them under bench warrants for failure to appear in court, Guglucello said.

The pronouncements from Guglucello and Judge Kobly came the day after a panel of three federal judges declined to extend its three-year supervision of the county jail under a consent decree that settled an inmate lawsuit concerning jail crowding. That decree, which expired Monday, required that the jail be fully open and staffed.

“The sheriff always has and always will recognize and support the judges’ need to incarcerate,” said Maj. James Lewandowski, jail warden. “However, the sheriff can’t spend money he doesn’t have, nor staff a jail when he doesn’t have the deputies to do so.”

Faced with a recession-induced financial crisis, the county closed its minimum security jail as an overnight facility on Tuesday and plans to mail nearly 100 notices to sheriff’s department employees on Friday, notifying them of their layoff, effective June 6, Lewandowski said.

As it prepares to close half of the main jail, the county will gradually phase down its main jail population between now and then, Lewandowski said.

The sheriff’s department has begun notifying the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to remove 47 federal inmates from the county jail by June 6, he added.

“I see us reaching a point where we’re going to have to make some serious decisions about staffing in our own office and budget decisions in other areas if we have to continue to operate a jail at a level we cannot afford,” said county Commissioner John A. McNally IV.

“If we have to keep a jail operating above a level that we can afford right now, I think the entire budget is open for review again,” he added. “At some point in time, we are going to cripple county operations.”

“Right now, we only have $51 million to spend. We cannot afford to have a jail at full capacity and full staffing and continue to do and fund the other mandated areas of county government,” McNally concluded.


1Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Yep, the subculture has their rights . Too bad that they don't worry about the rights of others .

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

Yeah... but how about that new carpeting in the magistrates' office! Not to mention the contract for George
Tablack -- that gives the administrator 56 paid days off. How about Judge Belinky getting more than his fair share to keep Don Gaudio jr. on the payroll! What about David Ludts daughter being on the county payroll; working for the Board of Elections? How about the Dapolito family and their 34 county employees? How much money has the county spent on travel since the fiscal meltdown began? Why haven't the Commissioners moved all the county offices to Oakhill (I guess no more free meals from the Saadey family is the answer)? Where is the pressure from our County officials on Columbus to consolidate the county court system?

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3justonevoice(94 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

author50@....well....yeah...there's that....

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4theword(342 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

If the county can't afford to run the jail then maybe the jail should go out to bids for a private company to come in and staff the jail

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5BillyBob(92 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Releasing these prisoners would be a terrible mistake. Although I agree that certain misdemeanor offenses do not warrant jail time (smoking pot), people need to know that there is consequences for breaking the law.

There are good reasons why these people went to prison (& yes, I know, many of them are probably BS reasons too, but that doesn't mean you release them all),

Maybe time needs to be spent looking at reasons to avoid putting certain people in jail and changing some laws. This should be a collabertaive effort between the county, city, etc.

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6Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

"Jail space is needed now more than ever as the prime summer crime season will soon be here, the judge added."

Interesting....everyone knows this, lets hope something gets done about it instead of letting the animals run the streets.

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7palbubba(809 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

There needs to be further cuts in the other areas of county government before any action is taken to release law breakers. They have proven in the past that certain offices can function on 4 day work weeks. Truth be known they probably all can. The Judicial system must work harder and smarter to reduce costs. Released law breakers running the streets is not the answer.

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8fess2it(30 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

This proves how slow are judical system moves. Some people have been in there for a year or more awaiting trial to go to prison. Let's hope they do not mistakenly let out the wrong person, which has been done in the past.

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9havinmysay(155 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

No one is in jail for smoking pot. They won't even arrest people for possessing pot unless it's a large amount.

What a mess. They should never have built the jail at its current location. It's big but there is obviously not enough space to prevent overcrowding. They should have picked a large lot in the center of the county.

Agree w/ author50. There are generations of the same families on the the county payroll. You have to wonder how many of them are really needed.

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10Silence_Dogood(1675 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

"Iris Torres Guglucello, city law director, said her department also is considering seeking a declaratory judgment in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court specifying the county’s obligation to house inmates."

I wonder what Cleveland Law Firm Iris Guglucello had to hire to come up with that decision, every one knows she is a Lawyer in name only!

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