The interior of one general-population “pod,” or wing, at the Medina County Jail, 555 Independence Drive, Medina. It contains 24 rooms, with two inmates assigned to each. ASHLEY FOX / GAZETTE
A wing at the Medina County Jail used on an as-needed basis in the past has opened to house nonviolent offenders with help from a state grant.
“State officials have told county judges throughout Ohio that nonviolent felons need to stay in county,” county Commissioner Adam Frederick said at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections’ Targeting Community Alternatives to Prison, or T-CAP, grant provides funds to counties to house and rehabilitate nonviolent felons. The prisoners have been convicted of fourth- or fifth-degree felonies, which include possession of between one and four doses of illegal narcotics.
“The increase in activity in the justice system is drug-related,” county Administrator Scott Miller said. The cost for the year of keeping the pod open could be between $400,000 and $500,000, he said.
Medina County received $592,166.00 through T-CAP for eight months — November through June — The grant likely will be renewed for 12 months, said Veronica Perry, director of probation at the county Adult Probation Department.
The entire jail complex has an annual operating budget of about $5.33 million, according to 2016 county budget data.
$60 a day
Sheriff Tom Miller said Wednesday it costs Medina $60 a day to house nonviolent prisoners, while Ohio charges counties $68 a day if they are sent to a state correctional facility.
“Community controls sometimes work better,” he said. “Continuity of care can reduce recidivism.”
The wing, or “pod,” that will remain open this year can house 36 inmates.
On Wednesday, the jail was nearly full, with 246 out of its 256 beds occupied.
The complex has two general-population pods with 48 beds apiece for male prisoners and another 48-bed pod for female prisoners.
A 36-bed “segregation” pod houses sex offenders and others who might either be a danger to or vulnerable to abuse by other inmates.
The 36-bed pod that was opened for the year has in the past served as emergency overflow space and originally was built to house misdemeanor offenders. Security is less stringent, with beds placed in open cement-block nooks instead of in individual rooms.
Another 40 beds can be used for overflow.
The T-CAP grant is “an opportunity to deal with the opiate crisis locally,” the Probation Department’s Perry said.
“The intention is to provide additional drug treatment jail services to individuals incarcerated locally,” she said. “The eligible offenders would be low-level, nonviolent individuals who have an F-4 or F-5 conviction.”
Fourth-degree felonies carry six- to 18-month prison sentences while fifth-degree offenses are punishable by between six and 12 months in prison
Perry said the goal of the T-CAP grant is to help reduce recidivism “while helping to restore the offender to a sober, drug-free, lifestyle upon their release back into the community.”
People convicted of committing violent crimes or sex offenses would not be eligible for the program.
Newly elected county Prosecutor Forrest Thompson said he is “open-minded” about programs aimed at rehabilitating drug abusers, but he intends to continue prosecuting drug trafficking vigorously.
In addition to funding the pod reopening, the T-CAP grant also supports establishing a Medication Assisted Treatment program at the jail.
The MAT program began last month and allows for treatment prior to an inmate’s release. The treatment typically consists of naltrexone injections that block the effects of opioids and alcohol.
Any remaining dollars are allocated to help with drug testing fees and case-management expenses upon release.
Those expenses include continued substance-abuse treatment and emergency housing.
Contact reporter Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.