My third major objection to the Ashtabula County Commissioners’ jail project is that 300 beds is way too many. The
current jail was built to accommodate 112. For the past 18 months the average daily jail
population has been between 90 to 100, and 90% are being held pending trial.
The commissioners report that the average daily number is 150. They also want you to believe
that the decrease is entirely the result of COVID. In reality, Ohio is in the process of major bail
Last summer the Ohio Supreme Court implemented rule changes for how courts are to impose
bail. Courts are required to have a bond schedule that expedites the prompt release of
misdemeanor offenders prior to their first court appearances. Courts are further required to look
at alternatives to pretrial incarceration such as GPS monitoring, supervision by probation, and
drug treatment as a condition of release. These changes are intended to keep in jail only those
who are a danger to the community or at a very high risk of not appearing for court.
There is also pending bi-partisan legislation to eliminate cash bonds. The bottom line is that the
jail will not return to a pretrial detention of 150.
The commissioners next assert that an additional 150 beds are needed for “rehabilitation”. The
American justice system has learned the hard way that sentencing non violent offenders to
lengthy jail sentences, even for treatment, only makes them worse, increasing the likelihood that
they will reoffend. Rehabilitative services for these offenders are effective when community
based with probation services.
Jail treatment programs work well for those who must otherwise be incarcerated. Criminal
justice dollars are wisely spent when those who must be in jail are required to spend their time
engaged in treatment or education, as opposed to just lying around and watching television.
I am in favor of a jail project that will expand the facility at its current location, increasing space
for treatment services and providing comfortable working conditions for sheriff employees. But I
cannot support a plan that includes a $350,000 price tag for land located 1 ½ miles from the
current jail and includes twice the number of beds as necessary.
Vote “no” on Issue 1, the 20 year sales tax.