Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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City’s CCNO membership ends today

Attorney: Prisoners charged under Toledo code must stay

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    An inmate is searched at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. The prisoners at CCNO who were charged with Toledo Municipal Code violations must remain at the regional jail for their sentences because moving them would violate court orders, a lawyer for the city said Monday.

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The more than 20 prisoners at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio who were charged with Toledo Municipal Code violations must remain at the regional jail for their sentences because moving them would violate court orders, a lawyer for the city said Monday.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas said those prisoners can’t simply be moved even though the city’s membership in the regional jail near Stryker, Ohio, ends effective at midnight today — 60 days after the city intentionally missed a July 1 deadline to pay a nearly $1.3 million quarterly bill for its share of beds at the facility. The quarterly bill covers about 36 percent of the jail’s costs through September.

By failing to pay the bill for 228 of the facility’s 638 beds, the city was apparently setting the stage to withdraw from the 25-year-old regional jail. A clause in the agreement provides for members to be kicked out if they are in default on payments after 60 days.

“The city of Toledo is in the business of collecting garbage, fighting fires, providing clean water, and arresting bad guys,” Mr. Douglas said. “We are not in the position of having prisoners or inmates. Those are all court functions.”

Jim Dennis, CCNO executive director, said he hopes Toledo will consider a “non-member contract” to house prisoners.

“We think that is a reasonable consideration for them to think about contracting with us for their Toledo Municipal Code prisoners,” he said. “If the question is ‘are we going to put people back on a bus?’ that decision will be made later in the week.”

Mr. Douglas stressed that removing those prisoners is not an option since a judge ordered each of those prisoners held there.

He also said CCNO wants to charge Toledo a premium as a nonmember customer.

“It is $90 or $97 a day per person … and we have offered to give them a nonmember contract if they dismiss their appeal and we guarantee 35 beds, which is 10 more than we need,” Mr. Douglas said.

The city won that latest legal battle over incarceration costs against Lucas County. A visiting judge in June threw out bylaw changes in the operating agreement at the regional jail and upheld the city’s charging policy that holds the county responsible for jail costs of defendants Toledo police arrest.

The decision by Judge Linton Lewis, Jr., in the lawsuit Toledo filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against the county and CCNO near Stryker said the pretrial costs of people arrested by Toledo police and charged with misdemeanors in violation of state law are to be paid by the county.

The decision resolves the funding dispute that began in October, 2014, when police, under the direction of the late Mayor D. Michael Collins, began charging suspects under state law, rather than the municipal code.

The former Ohio Supreme Court justice Monday also added: “If in fact they are foolish enough to carry out their threat to release prisoners, when the confinement of those prisoners is by court order and law the responsibility of CCNO and the sheriff, then they will have to deal with the repercussions.”

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, who is one of the two county representatives on the corrections commission, said the county would not dismiss its appeal.

CCNO has not heard back on an offer made Friday to charge the city the $90 daily rate, he said.

“The executive director is planing to remove those prisoners by the 31st by bus,” Mr. Gerken said.

“On the 31st of August, the city’s unwillingness to pay its bills will not put the public at risk,” he said. “We will do the right thing.”

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson in July said the city crafted a deal with Wood County as a “contingency” that the city could use so people arrested by Toledo police and incarcerated for violating the Toledo Municipal Code would be taken to the Wood County Justice Center.

Toledo City Council authorized the deal on Aug. 2, but as of Monday afternoon — hours before the expiration of the city’s membership in CCNO — the mayor and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn had not signed a deal.

The still-tentative deal with Wood County calls for the city to have 25 beds at a cost of $65 a day per bed, the mayor said, which is less than Toledo is obligated with CCNO.

The mayor also noted that the Wood County jail, which is about 30 miles from Toledo, is closer than CCNO, which is about 50 miles.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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