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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

Crowded lockup shuts out inmates

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

STRYKER, Ohio - The Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio closed its doors yesterday to additional prisoners from Defiance and Lucas counties, citing crowded conditions at the regional lockup.

Jim Dennis, the facility's executive director, declared an overcrowding emergency because the jail's population exceeded 95 percent of capacity for the third straight day. Yesterday's count was 636, or 99 percent of capacity.

Lucas County had 215 inmates, 19 over its allotment of 196, and Defiance County was using 83 beds, 18 over its quota of 65.

"These jurisdictions will have to release more inmates to create beds over the weekend," Mr. Dennis said. "If not, the jail continues to be closed to both jurisdictions."

For the jail to reopen to prisoners from the two counties, the overall population must drop to a maximum of 578 - 90 percent of capacity or below.

The jail administrator asked Defiance and Lucas counties to consider releasing some inmates early, and made the same request to the city of Toledo, which was using 232 beds - 95 percent of its allotment.

Court officials said they would do what they could to lower their inmate counts.

"We got a note [Thursday] that there was overcrowding, and I released several people early at that time, as many as I felt I could under the circumstances," said Judge M. Scott Ramey, of Sylvania Municipal Court.

Jean Atkin, administrator of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, said judges were reviewing cases to see if some inmates could be granted early release.

She said some defendants who were sentenced yesterday might have their jail terms delayed. Normally, the judges could sentence offenders to the county's work-release or electronic monitoring programs, but both were at capacity.

"It presents a challenge for the judges who feel that some type of incarceration or restriction is appropriate while not having the necessary resources to make that happen," Ms. Atkin said.

Crowding has become increasingly frequent at the regional jail, which houses offenders from the city of Toledo and five northwest Ohio counties.

CCNO closed its doors six times last year because of overcrowding, up from three emergencies in 2003. Mr. Dennis plans to meet April 7 with area sheriffs to discuss ways of managing the jail's population. But in the long run, the facility needs more cells, he said.

"I do have empathy for law enforcement for Lucas and Defiance counties, as it is difficult for them to protect the public and victims if they can't incarcerate," he said. "We need long-term solutions to a nagging problem that has only gotten worse in the past three years."

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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