By Peter H. Milliken
For the first time in nearly three years, Mahoning County’s main jail is fully open.
The final 57-bed prisoner housing unit opened about 12:30 p.m. Sunday and now houses 32 inmates, said Commander Thomas J. Assion of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.
The main jail’s capacity is now about 570 prisoners, and 124 sheriff’s office employees now work in jail operations, he said.
It housed 503 inmates Monday.
“Opening up this main jail and keeping it open, is one of the hallmarks of Sheriff [Jerry] Greene’s administration and it goes to show Sheriff Greene’s commitment to the safety and security of this community,” Assion said.
Greene, elected last fall, took office Jan. 6, upon the retirement of Sheriff Randall Wellington.
The main jail was reduced to being only half open in mid-2010 due to the county’s financial constraints, and closed sections of it have been reopening gradually since then.
To get the final unit re-opened Sunday, seven new deputies were hired, and “There was a lot of reorganization of our current personnel,” Assion said.
To make this possible, Sheriff Greene also inaugurated fees for services, ranging from jail inmate reception, to sex offender registration, to criminal background checks and foreclosures.
To get the final unit reopened after it had been mothballed for almost three years, inmates thoroughly cleaned it; county facilities workers made sure all plumbing and lighting fixtures worked; and sheriff’s deputies ascertained that telephone lines, security cameras and cell and housing unit doors operated properly, Assion said.
The announcement of Sunday’s full opening of the county’s main jail was hailed by a common-pleas court judge, a top assistant county prosecutor and the county commissioners as a major step toward improving community safety.
Although the county’s main jail is fully open, the county’s 96-bed minimum-security jail will remain closed to overnight use until further notice, but it will continue to function as a staging area for the day-reporting inmate work detail, Assion said.