The current Lucas County jail is not worth saving and a new facility is needed, according to a preliminary feasibility study that was presented to The Blade on Wednesday.
The downtown pretrial facility is perpetually overcrowded and oftentimes in need of repair, which makes remodeling and expanding the jail impractical, the study concluded.
RELATED CONTENT: Click here to view the Lucas County jail study.
“The current jail facility does not comply with the stated mission of the Lucas County Corrections Division of the Sheriff’s Office. The existing jail is undersized in all component areas, poorly configured, antiquated, operationally inefficient, to meet current, let alone project needs,” the study states. “The facility does not reflect the current best practice for design and operation of jail facilities and should be replaced.”
Sheriff John Tharp, who has been pushing for a new facility even before he was elected, called the jail “inhumane” during a presentation to The Blade’s editorial board.
The sheriff said he was told “the employees are sentenced one day at a time for the rest of their lives” by working in the Spielbusch Avenue jail.
“… There is a great need to have a humane place for everybody to live and work,” he said.
The jail, which was built in 1977, reaches capacity at 342 inmates. On average, there are more than 425 inmates at the jail, and at times it has reached almost 500.
“Any given day, go there and you see people on cots outside their cells,” the sheriff said.
The study, presented by Andrew Cupples, an architect from DLR Group, a California-based agency that conducted the study, said the current need is 526 beds, although the Lucas County board of commissioners should consider funding and space for up to 624 beds with plans for future expansion if necessary.
The study also states that it is “highly probable” that a new jail with more beds would not require an increase in staffing. The current officer-to-inmate ratio is about 1 to 4; a jail with an improved layout — which would, in theory, increase security and improve relationships — would have an officer-to-inmate ratio between 1 to 9.6 and 1 to 15.
The feasibility study will cost, at most, $75,000. The study, part of possibly securing a new county jail, is only in its first phase. Phase one of the study was partly focused on learning more about the jail population and population trends.
The study found that 89 percent of inmates are male; 57 percent are black, 41 percent are white, and 1.4 percent are Hispanic. A majority of the inmates, 64.7 percent, are between 21 and 39 years old. Of those who stay in the jail — those who are not released within hours of arrest — 71 percent are locked up on felony charges, the study found.
The next phase of the study, the prearchitecture phase, should be completed in June.
Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada said there were no cost estimates because there are still too many variables to consider: Where will the new facility go? How big will it be? What are the needs? What programs and services could be offered?
Mr. Cupples said a list of possible locations is being complied. Although nothing is set and all plans are very preliminary, it appears that a new jail would not be built in downtown Toledo.
The study suggests moving to a single-level facility, which would need to be built on several acres of land to accommodate any additions.
Site possibilities will also take into account travel time for inmates’ families, travel time for police officers, and transportation to and from various courts.
Sheriff Tharp said video arraignments in a new jail could be more widely available, limiting trips to court, and reducing costs.
The new jail could, on the wish list with other amenities, have an enhanced booking area that could reduce the amount of time officers are off the streets, from an average of about an hour to a projected 15 minutes.
Sheriff Tharp said he would like to have a new jail ready in about two years; Mr. Cupples estimated that a new facility could be designed, built, and move-in ready in about three years.