PDT Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of five articles addressing different aspects of the Scioto County Jail, the jailing situation around the region and how those aspects have impacted the local criminal justice system.
When it comes to the daily population of the Scioto County, the breakdown is simple and yet quite complicated at the same time.
Of the 190-person capacity, 30 of the beds are reserved daily for inmates from Pike County. Lawrence County has a contract for 10 beds everyday.
According to the contract between Scioto and Pike Counties, “Scioto County agrees to lease to Pike County, 30 jail beds per day at a cost of $40 per bed ($1,200 per day) to include no more than nine female beds. Scioto County will charge Pike County daily for 30 beds regardless of the number of beds that Pike county actually uses. In the event that Pike County has a need for additional beds, Pike county shall be billed and agrees to pay $40 per day for each additional inmate in excess of the minimum of 30 inmates per day.”
Lawrence County’s contract with the Scioto County Jail states, “Scioto County agrees to lease to Lawrence County, 10 jail beds per day at a cost of $48 per bed ($480 per day) to include no more than three female beds. Scioto County will charge Lawrence County daily for 10 beds, regardless of the number of beds that Lawrence County actually uses. In the event that Lawrence County has a need for additional beds and the Scioto County Sheriff’s Jail has the bed space, Lawrence County shall be billed and agrees to pay $48 per day for each additional inmate in excess of the minimum 10 inmates per day.”
If Lawrence or Pike County bring in additional inmates, Scioto County Jail Administrator Captain John Murphy said, “we pretty much hold Lawrence Counties feet to the fire. Pike County has no other facility, we are their source. We’ve been as high as 54 or 55 (inmates) from Pike County.”
Pike County’s contract with Scioto county for inmates is renewed every five years, with Lawrence County’s contract also renewed yearly.
Murphy said it’s not safe to assume the rest of the jail population on any given day is made up of local people, because the number of inmates from Pike Counties fluctuates.
But, if they are at capacity, 190 inmates Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini said 150 would be local inmates.
Those 150 beds could be occupied by inmates brought in by Ohio State Highway Patrol, Scioto County Sheriff’s officers, officers from New Boston or officers with the Portsmouth Police Department.
The Portsmouth Police Department years ago switched from booking inmates under local statute to booking them under a state statute. Under the local statute, the city was required to pay to house inmates in the Scioto County Jail. Booking inmates under state statute exempts the city from having to pay to house inmates.
Donini, in conversations with previous staff members, believes this change occurred around the start of 1997.
“From January 1997 through the current date of June 2013, the City of Portsmouth/Police Department has “never” been billed/invoiced for per diem. Rosemary (Beller, former Scioto County Sheriff’s Office Employee) states she began working in the Sheriff’s Office in July of 1985 and at that time the Police Department was being invoiced for the per diem for Portsmouth inmates in jail. Rosemary states this continued up until the day former Sheriff Sutterfield took office in January of 1993. Rosemary states the billing normally was between $23,000 and $30,000 each and every month. These invoices were sent to the ‘Portsmouth Police Department’. She states she began working for the Scioto County Clerk’s Office in January of 1993 at which time former Sheriff Sutterfield’s new administrative staff was constantly inquiring from her as to how the City was billed for the inmates that were in the Scioto County Jail,” Donini said in a statement to the Daily Times.
Without the ability to bill the city of Portsmouth for the housing of inmates, the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office has to eat that cost.
“I was not around when all of this happened. My understanding is, back in the old days the city of Portsmouth normally cited under city ordinances and they were sentenced under city ordinances and move to the county jail. The Sheriff’s Office then charged per diem rate,” Donini said. “My understanding is that at some point in time a statute was found that allowed the city of Portsmouth and any city in the state of Ohio to send their inmates to the county jail without cost to the city if they cite them under state ordnance as opposed to a city ordnance.”
Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas justifies this with the amount of county cases that are prosecuted in his office.
“The history of this as, I understand it, the PD (police department) would charge people under the state code so the county or the state was responsible for the jail cost. Until about three months ago they (Portsmouth Police Department) used state code for traffic violations and rarely charged anyone under a city code,” Haas said.
Haas said three months ago the Portsmouth Police Department received a grant to pay for overtime.
“They started picking up enforcement and started charging traffic violators under city code so the city could keep the money from the violations. The objective was to keep the officers we have and not lose anymore or potentially add,” Haas said.
Haas said there has always been an understanding between the Scioto County Prosecutor’s office and the city of Portsmouth’s Department of Law, in which the county would pay a portion of the costs associated with prosecuting county cased in Portsmouth Municipal Court.
In a letter dated Jan. 23, 2013 Haas asks Scioto County Prosecutor to formalize that agreement.
“As I am sure your are aware, some time ago a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ was reached wherein the county agreed to pay 40 percent of the assistant prosecutor’s wages (excluding the cost of benefits and PERS),” Haas wrote in his letter.
Haas pointed out the total number of criminal cases filed by his office in 2012.
“Portsmouth filed 52.5 percent of the felony charges. The Sheriffs’ Office filed 47.5 percent of the felony charges. As for misdemeanors, Portsmouth, filed 71.8 percent and the Sheriff files 28.2 percent. Overall, Portsmouth filed 62.15 percent of the criminal cases with the Sheriff filing 37.85 percent. The numbers obviously work out very closely to the 60 percent - 40 percent gentlemen’s agreement,” Haas wrote.
Further in his letter Haas states the 40 percent equates to about $32,000 annually.
At the beginning of the year Haas took over the Solicitor’s office after former Solicitor Mike Jones resigned to take another job.
“What I’ve found since I’ve been in this office is, if I’ve heard this is the way we’ve always done it once I’ve heard it a hundred times,” Haas said.
Haas said he has not received a response to the letter asking to formalize the agreement.
According to numbers provided by Donini, the number of people arrested by the city from 2003-2012 is 14,056, with an average stay in the Scioto County Jail of 8.9 days.
Next Sunday, Daily Times reporter Frank Lewis will address at the issues of overcrowding at the Scioto County Jail and the influence those issues may have on sentencing and probation.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT. .