Scioto County Jail overcrowding a constant problem

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

The Scioto County Jail has a capacity of 190. On Thursday (March 2) 205 inmates were housed at that facility. It’s an ongoing problem that Sheriff Marty V. Donini faces on a regular basis.

“I went to the (Scioto) County Commissioners and advised them that I could no longer sign a contract that commits us to 30 inmates per month for Pike County,” Donini said. “I did that because we were averaging 240-250 inmates every day for probably 4-5 months straight and I told them I can’t do it anymore.”

Scioto County has had contracts with other counties that allows them to send their prisoners to the Scioto County Jail. The contract essentially reserves a certain number of beds for that county, but when the local inmate population uses up those beds, Donini says he can no longer hold them for another county.

“Obviously I’ve hit my limit,” Donini said. “In October of last year (2016) I sent Pike County a notice telling them that I was interested in a Non-Renewable Notice. In other words I’m letting them know that I’m no longer going to renew the contract, and I had to get the commissioners to sign it.”

Donini said the commissioners signed the document and he left open an option in which the Pike County Sheriff could renegotiate. Now Donini has the option to take one or up to four inmates from Pike County, depending on the available space.

A check of the inmate population Thursday showed one inmate from Lawrence County. The rest were all local arrests. Of that population, 156 were male and 49 female.

What is the answer to the dilemma?

“The common practice is, we’ll go talk to the judges; we’ll go talk to the prosecutor, and say hey, we’ve got 240-250 inmates and now we’ve got to do something. You’re going to have to speed up the process, or if somebody has been convicted we need you to get what’s called the Warrant to Convey so we can take them to prison, which is what we did today (Thursday),” Donini said. “We say ‘listen, we’re at 205, and these inmates have been sentenced, can you get me the paperwork, because somebody’s not doing their job.’”

Donini said inmates who are in jail awaiting transfer to state institutions are “just taking up bed space.” Speaking of taking up bed space, Donini said some are in the jail on probation holders.

“It’s a chess game. You’ve just got to work with everybody,” Donini said. “Sometimes parts of the system don’t work as well as others.”

Where does STAR Detention Center fit in? Could the use of that facility take some of the load?

“Yes, if they would sentence them to STAR,” Donini said. “I have no clue. I’m not part of that facility. I don’t know how that works. I know STAR is more or less a drug treatment facility.”

What may be shocking to the public is how many days and, yes, years people are sentenced to in the Scioto County Jail.

There is an inmate sentenced in October who will not be released until May 2017, another who gets out in August 2018, another one’s release date is February 2019, and yet another has been sentenced to 1,230 days in jail. They will be released in May 2020.

“I have a bunch of inmates here that have zeros by their names,” Donini said. “That means they’re kind of stuck in the system. They haven’t been sentenced and they haven’t made bail.”

The Daily Times asked Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree, once you reach the 190 inmate capacity, what do you do beyond that?

“Sometimes there are people you just can’t turn loose, so you wind up with overcrowding in the jail,” Crabtree said.

Crabtree said the old jail had a capacity of 60 inmates and they routinely housed 90. He said the new jail was designed to handle 140 local inmates and another 50 for other counties to lease.

“The reason we had to lease them (beds) out was because the new jail was going to require additional employees. It was going to require a bigger budget, and the county budget has been strained for years, and right now it has gotten to that point where the $900,000 (+-) a year budget (contract) has been taken in to help carry his budget,” Crabtree said. “It’s down to where now he’s probably going to get very little to none on out-of-county contracts. That’s going to be a major thing for us to look at over the next couple of years, and what can we do, and if the old STAR facility opens back up it will relieve some of the pressure with some of the non-violent crime inmates going there.”

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.