Hamilton County Justice Center under fire in latest state inspection report

Jail violated 48 of 68 state standards

CINCINNATI -- The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is under fire again for “catastrophic” conditions inside its jail -- this time from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Out of 68 minimum standards Ohio jails must meet, the Hamilton County Justice Center violated 48 of them last September.

Earlier this month, an independent audit warned the jail was “one serious confrontation away from a catastrophe -- a riot, or a deputy, civilian employee, visitor, or an inmate killed -- due to its understaffed correctional facilities."

Now, a new, five-page inspection report is revealing more flaws inside the facility. State inspectors outlined 48 infractions -- 48 instances where the jail did not comply with state standards.

State officials said many of these issues must be corrected immediately.

Violations include:

- "Female prisoners were observed sleeping on the jail floor in a female housing unit with only a blanket."

- "Inmates were observed being held in holding cells that did not provide access to toilets and lavatories."

- "On the date of the jail inspection, the pharmacy was left unsecured with inmate workers in the area."

- “There is not enough security staff to safely operate the jail.”

In the corrections division, a baseline staffing -- or an amount the sheriff's office considers appropriate -- is at 291 personnel.

But auditors said there is no data to support 291 employees are enough, and this decision was most likely made by one person more than 20 years ago.

State inspectors said jail staffers are not completing annual suicide-prevention training -- and necessities like fire department inspections and proper head-counts have not been done according to code.

Annual inspections intended to ensure inmates are safe, that jails are secure and that they comply with the state’s minimum jail standards did not happen between 2008 and 2013 in Butler, Warren, Hamilton and Clermont counties — in addition to most other counties throughout the state.

"Very simply, the people don't want to spend money to house prisoners,” attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker said.

Shiverdecker, a 30-year criminal defense attorney who visited a client at the jail Wednesday morning, said he believes many of the jail’s problems could be fixed if the sheriff is given a larger budget.

But that's something he said is hard to sell to voters.

"It's pretty pervasive throughout our society, unless it's your son or your grandson that's locked up under conditions that are not good. Then all of a sudden, conditions should be corrected,” Shiverdecker said. “But if it's the other guy, the bad guy, the criminal so to speak, nobody really cares how he's treated."

Sheriff Jim Neil was unavailable for comment on the audit Wednesday.

RELATED: Southwest Ohio jails not inspected for years

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