Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Butler Co. transfers jail inmates

At least 20 moved out

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The Butler County Jail is so crowded, officials say they have little choice but to send at least 20 prisoners to another lockup at a total cost of about $1,500 per day.

        “With the inmate population of the jail reaching 250, this was a necessary action for the sheriff,” a news release said Tuesday, as prisoners were being moved about 28 miles north to the Preble County Jail, just west of Dayton, Ohio. That county is charging a daily rate of $75 per prisoner — somewhat higher than Butler's cost of keeping them, said Bradley Kramer, sheriff's spokesman.

        Built in 1969, the Butler jail is designed to hold about 86 prisoners but routinely houses more than 200. The problem underscores the county's need for a new jail, whose construction is expected to be completed early next year, Mr. Kramer said.

        The county has sometimes used a “tent jail” to ease overcrowding during warm months, but kept it in storage this year. “At this time, the jail is filled up with felons and they're not the type of inmates that would be suitable for placement in the tent,” Mr. Kramer said.

        Jail crowding has been a problem in other Ohio counties, including Butler's neighbor, Warren — and state regulations prohibit jails from operating under too-crowded conditions.

        The Warren County Jail, which has acapacity of 179, no longer sends prisoners to other counties. Instead, it employs an emergency early-release policy for nonviolent offenders, said Capt. Tim Lamb.

        “It's one in, one out,” he said. “It's a constant reshuffling.”

        He thinks the county's population growth is largely to blame for the increased jail population.

        That jail tried sending prisoners to other lockups — but Warren County officials “decided they weren't going to pay for it anymore,” said Sheriff Tom Ariss.

        Last year, Warren County sent prisoners to Miami County, north of Dayton, for $45 per day — $10 cheaper than Warren County's cost of keeping its own prisoners, Capt. Lamb said. Last year, the program cost the county $179,664.

        In contrast, on Tuesday, Hamilton County was having no problem inding space for prisoners, said Stephen Barnett, Hamilton County sheriff's spokesman. That county's four lockups held a total of 1,905 prisoners — 360 below a court-imposed limit of 2,265.


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