Saturday, August 30, 2003

Overcrowded jail prepares for busy holiday weekend

By William Croyle
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEWPORT - It's Riverfest weekend, which usually means more business for the Campbell County Detention Center - business it doesn't want or need.

On Friday 219 prisoners were in the jail, 84 more than the facility is certified to hold. And the holiday weekend is expected to push that number higher.

"With the fireworks, we could take in 25-30 people Sunday night," said jailer Greg Buckler, who is prepared to haul in cots and mattresses. "It could just be for alcohol intoxication, but the law says they have to be here for eight hours."

In the first step toward a long-term solution to constant overcrowding, the Campbell County Fiscal Court has hired Powell Consulting in Frankfort to study the jail to determine its needs.

"The jail is one of the most important services we provide to our constituent cities, even though it's not very visible," said Judge-executive Steve Pendery. "It's no secret that it's full, and Campbell County is going to continue to grow."

The jail opened in 1991. The county population has grown since then from about 84,000 to around 90,000. That's in addition to a lot of business development, such as Newport on the Levee, which has brought more people from surrounding counties into Campbell County daily.

Local police departments have also expanded, leading to more arrests. The county force has added six officers in the last five years, for a total of 31 today. Since the jail opened, the Newport Police Department has expanded by almost 24 percent, from 42 to 52 officers.

"I think probably when the jail was built it was too small," said Jim Woodrum, executive director of the Kentucky Jailers Association.

The National Institute of Corrections says each county should have three to three-and-a-half beds in its jail per 1,000 residents, Woodrum noted. Using the three-bed formula, the jail should have had about 250 permanent beds when it was built and 270 now, twice its current number.

The jail operates with a $2.8 million annual budget. It generates $1.2 million in revenue each year. Most of that money comes from housing federal inmates, charging booking fees and charging a per diem fee of $20 a prisoner.


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