October 25, 2014

Elyria
Partly sunny with showers
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Jail officials finishing early-release plan

If approved, program would ease overcrowding by letting go of nonviolent offenders

ELYRIA — County jail officials are nearing completion of a plan that would allow the release of low-level offenders as a solution to ease overcrowding.
But even if the plan is carried out, it probably won’t be necessary right now, said Capt. James Drozdowski, because the jail population has been relatively low of late.
On Thursday, the jail had 436 inmates in custody, still more than its 422-inmate maximum capacity, but far below the record of 554 inmates set in August 2006.
“Even though it’s over, it’s low for us,” Drozdowski said.
Corrections officers are putting data on all of the prisoners into a computer program that will sort them based on a one-through-nine scale, with one being the least dangerous, to determine who could be released if the early release program goes into effect, Drozdowski said.
It’s doubtful that the jail has many prisoners who would qualify as low-level offenders because most nonviolent, low-level offenders aren’t incarcerated.
Prisoners who would be released likely would be those charged with crimes such as driving under suspension and misdemeanor charges of failure to pay child support,
Drozdowski said.
Once the plan is finalized at the jail, Drozdowski said he’ll have it reviewed by county Prosecutor Dennis Will before forwarding it to the county’s Common Pleas Court judges. It may also have to be approved by the county’s municipal court judges.
Common Pleas Administrative Judge Edward Zaleski said he hasn’t been briefed fully by jail officials, but he doesn’t think the court has a choice other than to accept the plan once it’s finished.
The jail already has stopped taking inmates from street arrests during certain times of the day as one way to help reduce the increased workload brought on by overcrowding.
Drozdowski said he continues to look at other options, including bringing in trailers to house prisoners. He also said he plans to ask the county to fund the second phase of a study being conducted by a consulting firm to determine the best way to handle the crowding. He said he doesn’t know yet how much the study will cost.
County Commissioner Ted Kalo said he’s still not in favor of early release, but that it will probably be the only solution immediately available when the jail numbers start creeping back up.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

“We expected to be over 500, and we haven’t had quite that spike, so we’ve been lucky so far,” he said.