The Butler County sheriff may reopen the Court Street Jail in Hamilton to help with region’s jail space crunch. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Former Court Street Jail in Hamilton may again house prisoners

Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Tony Dwyer said additional jail space — the Court Street Jail can house about 160 prisoners — would both be a revenue generator and could help with the burden a new state law has imposed that says non-violent felony five offenders can’t be sent to prison anymore.

He said the sheriff runs his operation like a business and they are trying to be prepared for the future.

“In a nutshell it’s just like any other business, more so than ever at the sheriff’s office we’re looking at it like that,” Dwyer said. “Where is the economy going and where are the trends and how can we be prepared to address them.”

During his budget hearing with the commissioners last week, Sheriff Richard Jones said by opening up the former jail he can also provide 20 beds for some type of drug treatment program, something the commissioners discussed a couple years ago.

He said neighboring Hamilton County’s sheriff — where the jail space situation is dire — has indicated they would like to use 100 more beds in Butler County, they currently rent about 25.

Warren County is building a new jail because space is at a premium there too, so there could be additional revenue generating opportunities, that can help pay for the new $10 million Motorola radio system and other expenses, according to Jones.

“The contract prisoners help us offset our costs for the radio system,” the sheriff said. “And for the cost of our local prisoners. But Hamilton County isn’t the only one wanting jail space, there is none.”

Commissioner Don Dixon suggested maybe they should raise the rates and Jones replied, “it’s almost there.” Dwyer told the Journal-News they are on track to pull in $8 million from contract prisoners this year.

Reopening the jail has also been part of the discussion officials are having about dealing with the latest mandate from Columbus. State legislators have said low-level offenders are best treated locally, not in prison. So starting next July the judges can’t sentence those people to prison anymore.