breaking news

Suspicious device report prompts shelter-in-place at Clark Co. elementary school

Clark County won’t accept $840K grant to avoid jail overcrowding

A local court won’t apply for a more than $840,000 state grant because local leaders believe it could create overcrowding at the Clark County Jail and put criminals back on the streets.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections offered the Clark County Common Pleas Court a two-year Targeted Communities Alternatives to Prison grant — worth about $420,000 annually — in mid-July, presiding Judge Tom Capper said. As part of the grant agreement, the county would have had to agree to not send fifth-degree felons to state prison, instead placing them in local jails, he said.

RELATED: 1st-of-its-kind center for addicts, families opens in Springfield

By sending those felons to prison, the state pays about $72 per day or about $26,000 for a one-year jail sentence, Capper said.

“The bottom line is they’re trying to keep low-level felons out of prison,” Capper said. “They want to financially incentivize this process to judges. They want to offer the judges that money in hopes they’ll take it and not utilize prison as an option.”

In 2016, about 8,300 of the nearly 20,000 people in state prisons were sentenced to serve one year or less, according to the ODRC. About half of those sentences were fifth-degree felonies, the lowest level.

The community grants were designed to provide rehabilitation for low-level offenders that’s less costly for taxpayers. It’s expected to save the state about $20 million annually.

The money for the grants was taken from the municipal court system, including about $37,000 locally, Capper said.

MORE LOCAL NEWS: Controversial $1.8M Derr Road lane reduction project will move forward

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Clark County Commission all had to agree to accept the money, but ultimately declined because it sends a bad message and it could increase the jail’s capacity by nearly 25 percent, Capper said.

“It would just be a nightmare,” Capper said.

The court had until Aug. 23 to accept the request, he said.

Clark County had 54 potential prisoners in that category last year, Capper said. If even 30 or 35 of them were going to spend time in the Clark County Jail in lieu of prison, it would place a burden on the sheriff’s jail staff and space, he said.

It’s obscene that the court could contract away its sentencing authority, Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas said.

MORE NEWS: Springfield pool loses money but brings in 340K visits after 10 years

“I had two judges who felt that way, unequivocally,” Capper said.

The 10 most populated counties in Ohio are mandated to participate in the state process, which begins July 1, 2018, but it could be expanded to other counties, he said.

“We feel like it would be a detriment to our community, to the safety of our community and financially,” Capper said. “Although it sounds appealing, it’s not nearly that simple.”

The mandated counties will likely be asked to reduce drug traffickers to fourth- and fifth-degree felons, Clark County Municipal Court Judge Eugene Nevius said. It will put police officers and probation officers at risk of serious injury or death as they’re trying to monitor those criminals, he said.

“You’re going to see deaths to probation officers and police officers because they were mandated for economic reasons to balance the state budget,” Nevius said. “They’ve sold out big time. Just wait and see what happens over the next two years.”

READ MORE: Clark County schools make changes due to drug crisis, 1 stocks Narcan

The majority of the state legislature was against the community grant proposal, State Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, said. It passed as part of the recently approved two-year state budget. The larger counties have more treatment facilities where some of these felons can be rehabilitated, he said, but that’s not the case in smaller counties.

If those counties can handle the demand for treatment, Hackett said it may work. If not, those jails may become overcrowded, he said.

“They’ll be screaming with people,” Hackett said.

The larger jails have space, but Capper said that’s not the case in Clark County.

It would interfere with judges’ discretion to hand down appropriate sentences, Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said. For example, a person who receives a fifth-degree felony for breaking and entering would go to the county jail, displacing other people who are in jail with misdemeanor charges, such as OVI or domestic violence, he said.

“It’s another example of the state pushing responsibilities down to the local level,” Wilson said.


Springfield pool loses money but brings in 340K visits after 10 years

New Carlisle library to expand hours, hire more staff

Vaughn appointed to be next Clark County Juvenile Court judge

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

States take lead in passing gun laws
States take lead in passing gun laws

Despite the pleas from students across the country for Washington to do something about gun violence, the states seem to be ones listening. In the aftermath of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that took the lives of 17 students, at least two states have moved to pass more stringent gun regulations. A handful of Republican governors — including...
Russia investigation: Special counsel Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization
Russia investigation: Special counsel Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization

  Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump and his associates, according to multiple reports. The subpoena is the first directly connected to one of Trump’s businesses...
Pa. election outcome has some thinking Ohio districts are in play
Pa. election outcome has some thinking Ohio districts are in play

Democrat Conor Lamb’s stunning victory Tuesday in a suburban Pittsburgh congressional district easily won in 2016 by President Donald Trump has convinced Democrats and some independent analysts the party has a chance to compete for at least two GOP seats in Ohio. Although Lamb apparently prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone by less than a thousand...
READ IT NOW: Ex-Springfield firefighter shared post with racial slur
READ IT NOW: Ex-Springfield firefighter shared post with racial slur

A Facebook post shared by a Springfield firefighter that the city says led to his firing contained a racial slur, and mocked school dropouts and McDonald’s employees. Bradley Baugh was fired on March 9 after only a few weeks with the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division, according to city records obtained by the Springfield News-Sun through a public...
Ohio lawmaker wants military to assist Puerto Rico cleanup
Ohio lawmaker wants military to assist Puerto Rico cleanup

In the aftermath of a whirlwind two-day trip to Puerto Rico, Rep. Brad Wenstrup will push for but the active duty and reservists to help assist in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico. Wenstrup, a Cincinnati Republican who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and who is an Army Reservist, flew into Puerto Rico last Sunday for a field hearing on...
More Stories