County commissioners approved the arrangement Wednesday, which had last month received the go-ahead from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s state jail inspector for the Division of Parole and Community Services.
Gregory J. Dann informed Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti of the state’s approval of the plan in a Jan. 30 letter.
“We entered into a memorandum of understanding with the state before the first of the year and the commissioners have signed off on it,” Capt. Jack Hammond said. “We will be assuming control of Elyria’s jail and running it as an annex to the county jail.”
Hammond oversees operations of the county jail.
Under the plan, the county can house up to 54 women inmates in the jail, which has been closed since 2009 due to budget problems and which will be officially known as the Lorain County Jail Annex.
“We have traditionally struggled with overcrowding, and we knew this was a way of controlling that,” Hammond said. “This is a perfect fit for our female population. It was built in 2000. It’s a pristine jail.”
The county jail appears to have had an average daily population of 392 in 2011, according to figures that are now being finalized, Hammond said. Of that number, 45 are usually women. The jail’s capacity is 422.
The majority of inmates housed by the county are serving sentences for misdemeanors. Anyone convicted of a felony serves time in state prisons.
The plan calls for the county to use the Elyria jail at no cost. The city also is permitted to house its female prisoners at the facility, which will be operated by the county at no cost to Elyria.
Elyria will be responsible for utility and upkeep costs, while the county will shoulder costs of staffing and food.
“It’s basically a trade of services,” Hammond said. “No money changes hands.”
Operations have been altered at the county jail to reduce the number of corrections officers needed so existing personnel could be shifted to staff the city jail, according to Hammond.
“It’s been a lengthy process,” Hammond said Wednesday. “We first began working on this about mid- to late summer. That’s when we began talking with (Elyria Police) Chief Whitely.”
Use of the city jail also will free up space at the county jail to redistribute male prisoners in the hope of avoiding future problems by reclassifying male inmates.
“We’ve had as high as 31 street gangs represented in this jail at one time, and that was a nightmare,” Hammond said. “This move opens up another housing area. This allows us to do more with the same.”
Terms of an open-ended lease between the county and jail give both sides the right to opt out of the arrangement if either side feels it isn’t working, Hammond said.