Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Lucas County praised for justice reform work

As Lucas County officials eye a renewal of the MacArthur Foundation criminal justice grant, a foundation director Monday praised their work so far.

The county has made remarkable progress dropping its jail population, said Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The hope is these best practices will spread throughout the state, she said.

“Because our aim, frankly, is to really bend the curve in terms of the incarceration rate in the United States. We're not just looking at outcomes at the local level, but we're looking at impact nationally,” she said.

Ms. Garduque spoke in advance of an evening lecture at the University of Toledo.

In 2016, Lucas County received a $1.75 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to reduce its jail population. Lucas County is near the end of its initial two-year grant and will come back with a renewal proposal in June. The foundation has asked for a review of strategies to see what specifically has worked.

Prior to arraignments, the jail population early Monday was 369 in general population and 42 in booking. It falls well below the federal order of 403 for general population.

“The U.S. has 5 percent of the population and 25 percent of the people who are incarcerated. There's been a fourfold increase in incarceration in the last 40 years. And when you look what its impact has been on public safety, it's modest,” Ms. Garduque said.

Sheriff John Tharp said he was pleased with the support so far for the county's efforts.

“I think they're going excellent. I like the input that we're receiving,” Sheriff Tharp said.

Many years ago, the jail population exceeded 800 inmates. With the benefit of hindsight, it's likely some inmates could have been released earlier, Sheriff Tharp said.

With fewer inmates, less aggravation and aggression occur in tight quarters, Sheriff Tharp said. It also allows for more programming, such as those dedicated to sobriety, he said.

“The number one thing looking at 800 people compared to 400 people is safety. Safety of the officer working, overseeing the jail inmates, and also the inmates,” Sheriff Tharp said.

Contact Ryan Dunn at: rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @RDunnBlade.

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