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Crowded Stryker jail seeks early releases

STRYKER, Ohio - Overcrowding could force the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio to close its doors to prisoners from some counties, the jail's executive director said yesterday.

In letters faxed to judges in Defiance, Henry, and Lucas counties and Toledo Municipal Court, Jim Dennis asked them to consider releasing some inmates early.

“I am making this appeal to you for administrative releases,” Mr. Dennis wrote. “While I cannot declare an overcrowding emergency, I can assure you that CCNO is in an overcrowding crisis.”

Yesterday, the regional jail had 607 inmates, or 94.5 percent of capacity. Under CCNO policy, Mr. Dennis can declare an emergency and limit admissions whenever capacity remains at 95 percent or above for three straight days.

Last year, that happened three times: Jan. 28, Aug. 12, and Oct. 15.

Mr. Dennis said he wrote to the judges because they are exceeding 90 percent of their allotted beds at the facility.

Yesterday, Defiance County's inmate count was 63.8, compared with a limit of 65. Henry County's count was 38.5, just under its limit of 39. Lucas County had 202.3 inmates, compared with its quota of 187. Toledo had 238.3, compared with a limit of 254.

Municipalities are charged for a portion of a bed for an inmate arrested or sentenced in multiple jurisdictions.

So far this month, the jail's population has averaged 599, or 93.3 percent of capacity.

If an emergency is declared, municipalities that exceed their bed quotas won't be able to send additional prisoners to Stryker, Mr. Dennis said.

Underuse by Fulton and Williams counties, which traditionally don't fill all their beds, has allowed the jail to take extra inmates from other communities. “It does give them wiggle room,” Mr. Dennis said. “Unfortunately, they've used their wiggle room up.”

Judges in the affected courts said they will try to find inmates to release.

“I am very familiar with that kind of letter,” said Judge C. Allen McConnell of Toledo Municipal Court. “We always respond. ... We ask each judge to look at their list to see if there are any people [they] can release early.”

Judge McConnell said prisoners released early can be placed on work release or electronic monitoring. In some cases, the judge said, he has delayed the start of an offender's sentence because of crowding at CCNO. “It's becoming more and more of a concern for me and to the other judges as well,” he said.

Jean Atkin, administrator of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, said Judge James Jensen has asked the court's nine other judges to consider early releases where appropriate.

Besides common pleas court, Lucas County's bed allotment includes inmates sentenced in Maumee, Oregon, and Sylvania municipal courts. County officials have voiced concern about the Sylvania court's bed usage.

The city of Sylvania pays to have three beds at the regional jail, but Judge M. Scott Ramey's court also handles cases from Sylvania Township and Holland. Yesterday, 44 inmates sentenced in Judge Ramey's court were in the regional jail.

The judge said he would consider a request from the jail to review five prisoners for possible release. However, he said, “My job is to administer justice. I have to do it in the manner I deem that is most appropriate, given the law, and I'm not going to change my policy because of an issue of funding.”

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