The Sylvania city jail, which has held prisoners in its three cells since the early 1960s, will no longer be used for anything but a holding facility, according to Police Chief Gerald Sobb.
In a letter to city council, Mr. Sobb said that new standards set by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction have changed and that the city jail will no longer conform to those for facilities for longer-term incarceration.
Prisoners can stay in the jail for up to six hours
The chief said there are a number of changes, but the one that caused him to close the jail for anything other than a short-term holding facility was the need to provide training for officers to screen incoming prisoners for suicide risk.
“Because of the way the jail functions, I would have to train every officer, and it's just not feasible,'' he said.
No officers are specifically assigned to the jail, the chief said, but those who make an arrest are responsible for the booking, and on-duty patrol officers check on inmates at least once an hour.
After a conviction, those sentenced to 5 or fewer days can serve their sentence in the jail, which is in the basement of the police station. He noted that those who serve time there are those arrested by Sylvania police, not those from other jurisdictions who appear in Sylvania Municipal Court.
Chief Sobb said that annually the jail is used for “300 to 400 bed-days.'' He noted that the cost to the city is between $10 to $12 per day, compared to about $70 per day at other local facilities.
Insurance providers for the city, he said, have told him that the jail has to be in compliance with all standards or coverage could be affected.
He said the problem with training officers as experts in suicide screening is the potential for liability if a suicide should occur even if the officers are trained. Even at jails where counselors are trained and who use that training and experience daily, inmates still commit suicide, the chief noted.
The cells meet or exceed all standards for a 6-hour holding facility and will be used for that.
After an arrest, an individual will have to be brought to court, released on bond, or transported to the Lucas County Jail within 6 hours.
The jail won't be available for holding defendants who are sentenced to a jail term, he said. Those sentenced to even a short period of incarceration will have to serve the time at the Lucas County Jail or the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.
The change occurs Sunday.