CINCINNATI - To effectively end the process-only policy at the Hamilton County Justice Center will require additional manpower and resources, but will not require building a new jail, a top-ranking sheriff's office official told county commissioners Monday.
Major Charmaine McGuffey, who oversees court and jail services, briefed county commissioners on ending the process-only policy. She asked for more than $500,000 for additional staff and electronic-monitoring equipment. County commissioners were supportive of the ambitious change in policy and welcomed the transparency by the new administration.
Approximately 1,000 detainee prisoners have been held since the policy change took effect Feb. 1, McGuffey told the commissioners. In the past, many non-violent offenders were processed at the jail and released with an order to show up for a future court hearing. Often, however, many did not appear for those hearings, which would spark a warrant for their arrest.
"The main deterrent to crime is to know that you're going to come to jail and you're going to stay there," McGuffey said. "I've been out there on the street as well, arresting people and the casual way that they (alleged offenders) deal with this is crazy. They know they're getting out and they're not even upset when you arrest them.
"Now they know they have to stay."
To make room at the 1,240-bed jail, sheriff's office officials have been identifying candidates for early release and electronic monitoring. Detainees - or those arrested and waiting for their first court hearing - are not counted in the 1,240-bed figure. They are held in a separate area. Detainees cannot blend into the general population until they are sentenced and processed. Detainees and juveniles bound over to the county jail cannot be "doubled-up" in a cell while those in general population can.
McGuffey said there are 568 electronic monitoring devices, of which 341 are in-use. A judge's approval is required for early release and electronic monitoring.
To meet the needs of the new policy, McGuffey wants to add two data-entry operators and one classification specialist at a base salary of $37,000, and $42,000 plus benefits per year, respectively.
"It does take some people, but I'm asking for people that are doing the day-to-day jobs, to make this work," McGuffey told the commissioners.
Additionally, McGuffey would like to purchase 215 more state-of-the-art electronic-monitoring units for $420,000. Should the purchase of more units be approved, McGuffey will be seeking to add two more deputy sheriffs to the electronic-monitoring unit at a base pay of $51,000 per year. There are 10 deputy sheriffs currently assigned to the electronic-monitoring unit, and they work in tandem, McGuffey said. Deputy sheriffs are currently managing a client load of about 60, but McGuffey wants to push that number down to about 30.
Right now, the overwhelming majority of electronic-monitoring units, 400, require a home phone line, which is becoming increasingly obsolete as more and more people only carry cell phones. The sheriff's office, however, does have a little more than 100 of the state-of-the-art, ET-1, units that do not require a home phone line and are battery operated. They also send audible messages to offenders.
The ET-1 units are the ones McGuffey wants more of. She is requesting $546,126 for the electronic monitoring department, which includes the two additional sheriff's deputies and the purchasing of monitoring units.
"Electronic monitoring is something we want to utilize more," McGuffey said. "We are saying we can manage this jail population now, but as the population rises, we've got to have help, and that's we're preparing for now."
County commissioners Todd Portune, Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann were receptive to McGuffey's plan and request, although they did not make a final collective judgment.