PDT Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of five articles addressing different aspects of the Scioto County Jail, the jailing situation around the region and how those aspects have impacted the local criminal justice system.
Some weeks ago the Daily Times received word that a judge was reportedly contacted by Jail Administrator Captain John Murphy and asked not to sentence anyone to jail because it was already significantly over capacity. To be exact, the jail, which is designed to handle 190 inmates, was occupied that week by 243.
“Two or three weeks prior to that, there was a MAPS detail (Multi-Agency Police Exercise) with the Ohio State (Highway) Patrol,” Murphy said. “When you get through you get all of these people - stops, warrants, there are so many warrants in this county, it fluctuates.”
Murphy says initial word that he had called and asked a judge not to sentence people didn’t happen exactly the way it was reported.
“This last time I only called one judge - they were doing arraignments that day - and he said, ‘maybe there are some alternatives I can look at as far as sentencing.’ If I sentence them, maybe I can put them on house arrest today,’” Murphy said. “That’s up to them.”
Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini offered a solution in that situation.
“You might let them sign their bond, instead of sending them back to jail,” he said. “They would sit in jail for another 10 days.”
Murphy said the judges work with him to determine potential fixes to over-jailing.
“There are alternatives that they can decide to do,” Murphy said. “I’ve had judges in the past that have said, ‘hey, pull up everybody that I have sentenced, and see if I have anybody close to getting out.’ I’ve done that in the past.”
Murphy stressed no dangerous person charged with or convicted of a felony would ever be considered for alternative sentencing. The people he is talking about include mainly those charged with low level non-violent crimes.
“I have to make this clear - I have no authority at all to tell a judge what to do,” Murphy said. “That’s up to the judge. I just keep him informed what my count is, and tell him - ‘I don’t know if there’s anything you can do for us or not.’ Most of the judges already know what our capacity is.”
Donini said the fluctuation in the number of inmates means that his officers must communicate with the judges and their staff.
“They just don’t always know what the population is,” Donini said.
So what is the procedure he follows when he faces an immediate overcrowding situation?
“That’s when you call the Probation Departments, your Prosecutor’s Office. There could be people that’s sentenced or presently waiting on warrants to convey,” Donini said. “We could call probation officers - ‘Hey, you know, is there anything we can do - this is my count;’ call the judges - ‘hey, this is my count. I just wanted to let you know if there is anything you can help me with.’”
Murphy said he communicates with employees of the court system so that they are always aware of the jail’s current population.
“Every weekday we send out e-mails to the Common Pleas probation list, Municipal Court probation list, the prosecutor’s office get’s it, the solicitor’s office gets it - those that were just booked in. There are several different lists that we send out,” Murphy said. “It’s all done by e-mail.”
Murphy said another intangible is the fact that all of the people involved in law enforcement have become more efficient at their jobs.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of crime out there. You have the law enforcement officers out there doing their job. You have the probation officers out there doing their job. You have the judges doing their job and the Prosecutor’s office doing their job,” Murphy said. “It’s just a combination of everything. That House Bill 186, where you don’t send people to prison any longer, that falls back on the counties. When you have people who normally would be going to prison, you are sitting here stalled out. That’s what it comes down to.”
Next Sunday Wayne Allen examines the affect opening a regional facility, such as the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Detention Facility, would have on Scioto County’s bed rentals, and what are the options available to keep overcrowding from occurring.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.