STRYKER, Ohio —The Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio rejected Lucas County's request Wednesday to reserve additional space in the jail to house inmates for a state-funded diversion program.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken asked the corrections commission to increase the county's inmate space allocation from 275 to 325 for 2018.
The Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio rejected Lucas County's request Wednesday to reserve additional beds in the jail to house inmates for a state-funded diversion program.
The additional slots would allow Lucas County Common Pleas judges to send people convicted of low-level felonies to the regional jail rather than having them incarcerated in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction system.
The corrections commission voted against increasing the county's count by an 8-2 vote. Mr. Gerken and Major John Sylvester of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office cast the only ‘yes’ votes. Representatives of the other four member counties — Defiance, Fulton, Henry, and Williams — voted against the measure.
CCNO officials said they can’t provide the additional space to Lucas County because of contractual obligations with the U.S. Marshals Service to take up to 133 spaces to hold people facing charges in the southern district of federal court in Ohio.
Without the additional inmate allocation at CCNO, Lucas County is facing the loss of $2.7 million over the next two years to fund the Targeted Community Alternative to Prison program, better known as T-CAP.
The program was started this year at the regional jail as a pilot. It allows judges the discretion of keeping offenders in local facilities rather than sending them into the state prison system.
In asking for more space, Mr. Gerken reminded the members that Lucas County stepped up last year to pay for an additional 100 inmate spots after the city of Toledo pulled out of the jail and defaulted on its quarterly payment for 228 inmate spaces.
The county, as a charter member of the jail, has been paying for operations and capital improvements for more than 25 years, he added.
"I would say it is clear and fair to say we are an equity owner in the institution based on our debt service and capital contributions," the commissioner said. "We are contributing to the capital and the physical infrastructure. We contribute to the operations. I think based on that alone there is some duty of this board to allow a founding member with major contributions over a quarter century to take some [space] first."
The corrections commission agreed this month to a four-year contract with the U.S. Marshals Service for 25 inmate spots at a cost of $90 per day for each inmate. The contract was amended Wednesday to increase the number to 133 at the same rate. CCNO’s standard daily charge to the five member counties is $72.50.
Mr. Gerken said he was disappointed the CCNO members chose to contract with an outside organization rather than provide extra space for a long-time member.
"It seems to me the CCNO's mission has lost its way in that we have turned into an auction hall for [space]," he said.
Mr. Gerken proposed using 50 of the 108 spaces that were available before the commission voted 8-2 to amend the agreement with the Marshals Service. He and Major Sylvester voted against the new contract.
Henry County Commissioner Bob Hastedt, who is chairman of the commission, said Lucas County had the opportunity to include the 50 extra spaces on Oct. 4 when each county reserved its allotment for 2018.
"They had every opportunity to bid on their [spaces]," he said.