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Published: Tuesday, 5/23/2006

Regional jail issues overcrowding alert

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

STRYKER, Ohio - The Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio landed in emergency overcrowding status and that was expected to give some inmates held for nonviolent misdemeanors a "Get Out of Jail" card yesterday.

The regional jail near Stryker closed its doors yesterday morning to the city of Toledo and Fulton County while jail administrators sent pleas to area judges to release offenders.

Toledo, which has 244 beds in the jail, had 249.5 inmates there. Fulton County, which has 50 beds, had 50.5 inmates.

Such records show a fraction of an inmate because when an inmate is held on charges from multiple counties, each county is assessed a percentage of that inmate's keep. And that's not uncommon, according to Jim Dennis, executive director of the jail that serves the city of Toledo and Lucas, Fulton, Henry, Williams, and Defiance counties.

"Today's criminals are quite mobile," he said.

The jail had 613 inmates on Sunday and 611 yesterday morning, which is just a couple inmates above its number for an overcrowding alert, Mr. Dennis said.

This is the first time in almost a year that the jail has declared an overcrowding emergency. The last time was in June.

But it's not an uncommon occurrence. The jail has had multiple overcrowding alerts - some almost back-to-back - in recent years.

Weekends or just after a weekend are the most common time for such emergencies. Many judges allow nonviolent offenders who have weekday jobs to serve jail sentences on the weekends so they don't lose their employment. Plus, weekends often mean additional arrests.

The jail started Friday with only 577 inmates, but the numbers were up to 606 by Saturday.

For any inmates who unexpectedly got a seat on the jail's afternoon bus back to their hometown, their Get Out of Jail card didn't necessarily include the word Free. It's up to local judges to decide whether or not to order such inmates back to jail at a later date to complete their sentence or remain in custody.



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