Jail overcrowding - Part 1


Jail overcrowding - Part 1
No room at the 'county inn'
jail space
running out
Tribune Staff Writer
Coshocton Municipal Court
Judge David Hosteller is
becoming well known for
his alternative sentencing
There were the two men
he sentenced to walk down
Main Street wearing
women's clothing after
they made a derogatory
comment to a woman. And
the six 18- to 24-year-olds
he ordered to auction off
their possessions to pay
$20,000 in restitution after
they threw bricks at
parked cars.
Hosteller's unusual sentencings have made headlines in the Coshocton Tribune and other publications, and been featured on
radio and television shows.
But creative sentencing
only works if there is a jail
— and room to put people
in that jail — to use as a
threat to offenders.
"Other sentences can
tickle people's sense of justice and sense of humor,
but it needs the jail as the
backbone," Hostetler said.
"The jail is the backbone of
everything. I can assign
people to do community
service or to house arrest,
but if the jail's not there,
then there's no incentive to
do the service or stay in the
The problem Hostetler
- and others trying to
maintain a safe community
— has is there is no longer
anywhere to house lawbreakers. Offenders are
sentenced to the county
jail, but that's like putting
more air into a balloon al-
Cell block B in the Coshocton County Jail currently housing 16 male inmates has one table meant to seat 8 inmates.
This is the first in a series of weekly stories that will appear on Tuesdays and examine the overcrowded
and understaffed conditions of the
Coshocton County Justice Center.
Today: Judges and law-enforcement agencies are running out of
room to put criminals in the jail, and
it's a problem that affects more than
just the sheriff's office.
Next week: Coshocton County
judges change their sentencing practices due to the overcrowded jail.
ready stretched to its limit.
Or the jail takes in one
offender only to let out another, perhaps early, to accommodate the latest offender.
Average daily jail population nationally
Midyear 2001: 625,966, filling 90 percent of jail capacity.
Midyear 2000: 618,319, filling 92 percent of jail capacity.
Midyear 1990:408,075, filling 104 percent of jail capacity.
From 1990 to 2001, the number of jail inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents
rose from 163 to 222.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
This cell
block in the
women's side
houses eight
June 11, 2002
There's just no room at the
county inn. The Coshocton
County Justice Center, which
opened in 1973 and averaged
five to six inmates, now has an
average of 64 inmates per day.
And, to make matters worse, the
jail is also understaffed.
The discount factor
"As a citizen, it would bother
me," said Richard Evans, Common Pleas Court judge. He said
the jail problems could lead the
public to think people who
should be in jail aren't.
In fact, it's a distinct possibility that is the case, he said. On
some level, the problems figure
into at least the lengths of people's sentences.
"Perhaps somebody might
have gotten say 20 days instead
of the customary 30 days because there's been sort of a discount factor implied there due
to the unavailability of jail
space," he said.
He said he doesn't think it's a
substantial problem. But if
someone is victimized on the
21st day by a person who was
given 20 days instead of the normal 30 days, the victim would be
in favor of increasing jail space.
However, he points out, it's
impossible to predict the perfect amount of jail time for
someone. And, if someone does
re-offend on the 21st day, he or
she likely would have re-offended a day after release anyway.
For those who end up in the
jail, the conditions deserve to at
least be humane, according to
"I think most people,
throughout their lives, probably
could have been in jail once or
twice, or at least know someone
who has," said Lt. Starkey
Lawrence, jail administrator. "A
lot of guys get in bar fights, or
they get here because of DUls.
"hey're going to be here sooner
or later."
Evans agrees.
"Then if one (member of)
your family or your friends
does end up in the jail, you'll
want those conditions to be at a
minimum humane," he said.
And an overcrowded jail can
create inhumane conditions.
"It's like having a bunch of
relatives come for a few days
and stay for months," Evans
Lacking space, staff
The jail's total capacity is 64,
Lawrence said. But, according
to Bureau of Adult Detention
recommendations created two
years after the jail opened, the
jail should house 27 inmates.
Otherwise, they are denied the
personal space everybody
Those same recommendations say the jail should have 50square-f eet of space per inmate.
Today's conditions require two
inmates to share a 44-squarefoot cell, and four inmates to
share an 88-square-foot cell.
"When you come to jail, number one you're innocent until
proven guilty," Lawrence said.
"Number two, even if you are
guilty of a minor crime, it
shouldn't cost you your life
"If you come in here for just
a few days it's not that bad, but
if you're in here for months and
months it is. People get on each
others' nerves."
And when people get on each
others' nerves, they start fighting. Lawrence said there are
usually two to three fights per
week. Those fights pose a threat
to inmates and officers. And
sometimes — "more often then
you realize," according to
Lawrence — a distraught inmate will attempt to take his or
her own life/'Who's in the county jail? It's your neighbors, it's
From Page 1
your friends, it's your family
member," Lawrence said. So the
sheriff's office keeps it as safe
as possible. And it tries to provide inmates with programs to
turn their lives around. Programs such as Six County counseling, or Alcoholics Anonymous or PRIME for addictions
and anger-control problems.
But under current conditions
— lack of space and staff — it's
becoming more difficult to
offer programs to inmates.
The jail currently has seven
corrections officers, a sergeant,
Lawrence, the boss. State recommendations for a jail like
Coshocton County's say each
shift should have seven guards.
Coshocton has two during the
morning and afternoon, and one
at night.
Lawrence and Sheriff Tim
Rogers have a new jail on their
wish lists. But that is easier
hoped for than accomplished. A
new jail would require more
staff and increase operating
costs. It's those costs and an inability to find funds for them
that have hampered county efforts to get a new jail.
While matching funds could
possibly be gathered by the
county for construction, Com- This office space has been recently converted to be able to house
missioner Kathy Thompson said two additional inmates.
she doesn't know where operating costs — which could in- now to see what the economy
"The jail was designed great
crease by as much as $600,000 a and the budget look like at the at the time," Lawrence said.
year — would come from.
end of the year.
"But the thought process and inWith the state budget in disThe jail situation is getting carceration rate have changed
array, there is likely little serious, although so far it is still so rapidly. We're still back 30
money coming from it to help serving its purposes — which years. We're still trying to catch
defray the costs. Even grants of- Rogers said are keeping the up."
fered by the Bureau of Adult community safe and disciplinAnd being behind the times
Detention are in danger of being ing the guilty. But how much has left the county in a tough
longer that will be the case, no bind, with some difficult issues
"We're not ignoring it (the one knows. The jail is nearing to address.
jail), we just don't know what to its breaking point, Rogers said.
do about it," she said. Commis"I see no light at the end of
[email protected]
sioners say it's a waiting game the tunnel," he said.