Members of the Hamilton County Concurrent Grand Jury said in a final report that steps need to be taken now to repair or replace the County Jail.
Foreman Robert Smith said in a final report to Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern, "It is time for the county fiscal body to step up and develop a plan to immediately solve the overcrowding and structural issues at the County Jail.
"The Grand Jury is cognizant of the fact that expending funds for jails is not as attractive to the county taxpayers as building educational or recreational facilities, but correcting these problems now could be less expensive than having to correct them as the result of a lawsuit."
The report said adding a new wing at the workhouse will still leave the downtown jail at maximum capacity.
It says plans for correcting the jail problems need to take into account the growing county population.
The report lists 11 items for improvement at the jail.
Here is the full report:
The Concurrent Grand Jury for the January – April, 2007 term presents the following report:
The Jurors found their service on the Grand Jury to be very educational as it relates to the Criminal Justice System in Hamilton County, but also depressing at times. The visits to the Hamilton County Jail, CCA facility (Silverdale), Juvenile Justice Center, and Community Corrections were very informative.
The testimony of the law enforcement officers made us realize the extremely dangerous nature of their work, and we sincerely appreciate their efforts to protect the citizens of Hamilton County.
The legal information provided by the Assistant District Attorney, Bill West, was very helpful and appreciated, whether about a matter to be considered by the Jury or a general question about criminal law. We also very much appreciated Stacy Wolfe serving as the note taker for this term.
This report reflects the opinions of the Concurrent Grand Jury. We are charged with reporting on the County Jail and the Juvenile Justice Center. Although we are not reporting on Silverdale and Community Corrections, we appreciated the very informative tours provided by the officials of those facilities.
The Concurrent Grand Jury issues the following recommendations and commendations:
HAMILTON COUNTY JAIL
This Grand Jury concurs with numerous, prior Grand Juries, in pleading with the County fiscal body to replace the current structure and/or build another facility, due to the serious overcrowding at the County Jail. We are aware that currently 128 beds will be added at Silverdale in the near future, which will ameliorate the overcrowding at the Jail to some degree. But, even the transfer of 128 inmates from the Jail to Silverdale, will still leave the Jail at approximately the maximum number of inmates for which it was built.
In addition, even if the number of inmates transferred keeps the Jail at or below the maximum capacity, the structure of the Jail is not appropriate for housing (1) inmates with serious psychological issues (2) inmates who for their own safety or the safety of others need to be placed in isolation cells and (3) juveniles. (Most of the items detailed in the recommendation section of this report are due to overcrowding and/or the architecture of the structure.)
It is time for the County fiscal body to step up and develop a plan to immediately solve the overcrowding and structural issues at the County Jail. The Grand Jury is cognizant of the fact that expending funds for jails is not as attractive to the County taxpayers as building educational or recreational facilities, but correcting these problems now could be less expensive than having to correct them as the result of a lawsuit.
All plans for a new or improved Jail facility must include the projections for the increased number of inmates for at least the next decade as the population of the metropolitan area increases.
One of the continuing issues for this Grand Jury is the number of repeat offenders. How is it possible for individuals with multiple convictions for DUIs, assaults, and drugs to be released because of overcrowding at the jail? This is no deterrent to their behavior. Also, the law enforcement officers, who work very hard to arrest these offenders, must be disheartened by this situation. We need a bigger jail to incarcerate all these repeat offenders in order to make the community safer for law abiding citizens.
(1) We were very impressed with Chief Hart. He and his officers do a very good job with the available resources. They attempt to treat the inmates in a reasonable, humane manner.
(2) The ongoing training program for the guards is very good.
(3) The educational programs, e.g., religious, educational, anger management, and parenting, for the inmates presents an opportunity for those who are so inclined to improve their lives once released from jail.
(4) Using inmates to work in the kitchen helps to keep the meal costs extremely low (87 cents per inmate per day) and hopefully, provides the workers with a skill which they can use when released from jail.
(5) Given the age of the Jail, which is about 30 years, it appeared to be clean and well maintained.
(1) Immediately fund the current Request for Proposal (RFP) to completely update all the technology utilized at the main control center on first floor.
(2) Install better lighting on the sixth floor.
(3) Significantly upgrade the mental health program by increasing personnel trained in this area. (Guards can not be expected to have expertise in handling inmates with these types of issues.) Due to the number of inmates with mental health problems, a separate area/wing is needed for these individuals.
(4) Expand the current area used for the provision of medical/dental services.
(5) If possible, provide work assignments for all inmates who desire to work.
(6) In order to help prevent the spread of any airborne diseases, install UV lights in the HVAC system and medical unit.
(7) The initial holding area on first floor needs to be larger to eliminate placing large number of detainees into one cell. This results in people sleeping on mats on the floor and overuse of toilet facilities.
(8) A larger outdoor recreation area is needed, and eliminate the use of the indoor recreation room as a “sleeping area” for inmates.
(9) Increase the total number of guards on duty, to insure that if one or more guards are absent there are still an appropriate number per floor.
(10) Install video conferencing equipment for visitations with the inmates.
(11) All cells should be visible from a guard post, instead of requiring guards to walk down long corridors to check on inmates, especially those who require special attention. (This would require total renovation of some of the current structure.)
JUVENILE JUSTICE CENTER
One of the continuing concerns is the lack of a local, long-term facility for juveniles. Such a facility would enable relatives to be able to visit the juveniles without having to travel approximately two hours to the nearest long-term facility, as is now the situation. If the Juvenile Court officials and staff are able to work locally with the juveniles, family and counselors, this would assist in the rehabilitation effort for the youthful offender.
The Grand Jury recommends that all local officials lobby the appropriate State officials to secure such a facility for our area.
(1) With a few exceptions, overall the facility appeared to be clean and well maintained.
(2) The kitchen facilities and menu were appropriate for the age group being served.
(3) The staff appeared to be compassionate and concerned about the juveniles.
(4) The educational program provided was geared to help the juveniles once they are released from the facility.
(1) Additional caseworkers are needed for the Intensive Probation Program.
(2) Additional mental health staff should be added.
(3) Develop an outside recreation area.
(4) Utilize more lighting and brighter paint to make the facility more attractive. Also, install inspirational/motivational posters throughout the facility. If possible, utilize juveniles with artistic talent to paint murals on the walls.
Concurrent Grand Jury