For the first time in years, the Tri-County Regional Jail’s average daily population in 2015 was below its state approved capacity.
The jail averaged 149 inmates per day last year — 116 males and 33 females.
The jail population has been dropping for several years, but consistently remained above the 160 inmates approved by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The daily average was 170 in 2012, 164 in 2013 and 163 in 2014.
“I think there has been an effort by the whole jail area to keep the population down,” said Champaign County Commissioner Bob Corbett who serves on the jail board. The jail serves Champaign, Union and Madison counties.
He said the biggest difference has been increased efficiency in getting paperwork done both by the courts and the jail staff, so inmates don’t spend unnecessary days in the jail before transport to prison or entering a home monitoring program.
“Both (Champaign County) judges, Common Pleas and municipal, they don’t mess around,” Corbett said.
Judge Nick Selvaggio won an award from the Ohio State Bar Association last year for his efforts to improve efficiency in the court system. Those efforts contributed to a 99 percent reduction in jail overage charges paid by the county over the past five years.
Champaign County now consistently has fewer inmates in the jail than Madison or Union.
On January 7, the day of the jail board’s last meeting, there were 168 inmates in the jail, with just 37 from Champaign County, according to Jail Director Scott Springhetti.
He reported the jail had more than 3,900 book-ins in 2015 with an average length of stay of 11 days.
The month with the lowest average population was in March with 140 inmates per day and the lowest daily population of 126 inmates on March 31. The highest was December with an average of 168 inmates per day and the daily high of 191 inmates on Dec. 23.
At its January meeting the jail board approved purchasing a body scanner, which is used to detect contraband inside of inmates’ body cavities.
The jail hopes to cut down on drugs being smuggled into the jail.
“Contraband inside the jail is a problem,” Corbett said.
Last month, a female inmate at the Clark County Jail died from a suspected heroin overdose and a fellow-inmate has been charged with bringing drugs into the facility.
Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said body scanners cost between $150,000 and $200,000.
Tri-County plans to pay for a scanner with money budgeted in last year’s budget but unspent.
They’ve previously used carryover funds to purchase new cameras for nearly $250,000, to repair the jail’s roof at a cost of about $400,000 and to get a new HVAC system at about $100,000.