Sunday, August 3, 2008

Filling River City, Easing Jail Overcrowding

Last November, the voters spoke pretty clearly: as opposed to adding jailspace or new dollars, they expect the County to do a better job managing the jail space we already have, and the money they already send our way.

Hopefully, some of the blog posts below show that we are working hard to respond to their clear mandate.

Another sign that we are moving in the right direction involves the River City Correctional Facility. This is a state-funded detention facility located at the old "workhouse" in Camp Washington, run locally by a County-appointed board, that is designed to house non-violent felony inmates and provide rehabilitation and reentry services. It is formally an alternative to sending inmates to state prison--but in practical terms, also plays a role in alleviating spaces and costs at our Justice Center.

Early this year, at one of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee meetings that I chair, I was informed that there were numerous unused beds at River City. Dozens of male and female beds were sitting idle. This was happening at the same time that the Justice Center was at or near capacity, and particularly squeezed with too few female beds, such that some female inmates were being let go early. And of course, recent studies had shown that the biggest increase in jail intakes in the last four years was for drug crimes--so the empty beds could not be explained by a lack of demand for the River City "service".

It got so bad that River City informed other counties in Ohio of its excess capacity, to try to fill the beds (and avoid a cut in state funding for lack of use)!

On hearing this news, I reacted the same way that any citizen would have--that this made no sense!

Thankfully, Sheriff Leis and his staff, along with presiding Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel, all agreed. We met, and they agreed to jointly encourage that River City be fully utilized as an option by the Courthouse--particularly for drug court cases. The drug court judge, Judge Kim Burke, also agreed that something had to be done. And hard-working employees in our probation and pretrial services offices have been doing the logistical legwork to assure systematic collaboration among our courts, jail and River City, so that we together maximize the use of River City for appropriate inmates.

The results:

March average population in River City: 150.65
April average: 167.61 (I believe this was around the time we had our meeting)
May average: 189.10
June average: 193.63
July average: 200.71
Last Friday (August 1) -- population was at 204.

Basically, River City is now at or near capacity. This lessens demand on space at the Justice Center, gets many inmates into a rehabilitation/treatment path, and ultimately shifts what would have been a county cost (for time served at the Justice Center) to the state. And all this was done without new spending.

Thanks to all involved for getting this done.

6 comments:

peckej said...

Until June of this year I worked as a Resident Supervisor at River City; I noticed increase in numbers but I didn't know what the cause was. Residents receive education, job training,and employment opportunities and typically leave the facility with a job and, in many cases, a GED. RCCC is an excellent way of focusing on what should be important: a long-term solution that breaks the cycle of crime and imprisonment. In fact, there is evidence that post-release aftercare groups, which River City provides, are the most important part of recovery. We need to have more of that in this county: it's telling that River City is 100% funded by the state.

Michael said...

Well maybe if Leis wasn't so gungho on arresting non-violent pot smokers we wouldn't have overcrowding issues.

Mark Miller said...

Cooperation, efficient utilization, and best of all no new taxes or spending. This is how we want government to work.

Many thanks to all who participated.

David Pepper said...

Thanks, Mark and peckej for your comments.

Michael, just to clarify, the marijuana law applies only in the City of Cincinnati, and is not covered by the Sheriff. While there are strong feelings on both sides of that City ordinance, the Sheriff has little to do with that law or its enforcement.

On this River City issue, though, the Sheriff and his team actually were very helpful in improving the situation, and deserve credit for doing so.

Anonymous said...

RCCC is a gem. Director John Baron and his staff have been very supportive of activites in Camp Washington. They provide weekly clean-up crews. Their residents have worked side-by-side with Camp Washington resident and business volunteers during Great American Clean-up, the restoration of the Doughboy Statue and flag pole installation, and, they host an annual community picnic (this year its Sept. 6).

The jail issue taught us that 65% of the inmates at the Justice Center have mental or drug issues. RCCC is the perfect operation to deal with the drug issues. Perhaps the County should expand the facility.

The Volunteers of America are looking at the vacant space directly north of RCCC to build a homeless vet facility. If it will be operated as well as RCCC, then the community will be pleased.
Joe Gorman
Community Organizer
jgorman@fuse.net

Anonymous said...

I THINK THIS WILL BE A GOOD WAY TO HELP INMATES WHO CONTINUE TO GET DRUG CASES GET HELP WITH THERE PROBLEM BECAUSE IT IS HARD TO FIND A JOB WITH A FELONY AND IT'S EVEN HARDER WHEN YOU HAVE ALOT OF THEM. MY KIDS FATHER HAS BEEN TO PRISON SIX TIMES. HE IS 29 AND HE'S READY FOR A CHANGE. HE IS IN THE JUSTICE CENTER RIGHT NOW AND HE NEEDS HELP. I SUGGESTED RIVER CITY BECAUSE THIS PROGRAM HELPED A FRIEND OF MINE GET HIS LIFE TOGETHER. I THINK THIS COULD REALLY HELP SOME PEOPLE.

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