Large crowd hears judge issue dire warnings about impact of closing Middletown jail

Municipal Court Judge James Sherron told Middletown City Council that closing the city jail would have a “profound and catastrophic impact” on the community.

Sherron presented his case at council’s meeting Tuesday before a large audience of court personnel, city officials, former police chiefs, police officers and residents.

While he had been informed the issue was tabled until next year, Sherron said he believes “the issue remains critical and timely to still merit discussion right now.” While he said he respects City Manager Doug Adkins and the work he has done for Middletown, Sherron said they “simply have a deep disagreement on this issue.”

Sherron said the reductions in jail population have already caused limitations in the court as there are more than 1,800 unserved warrants in Middletown, excluding warrants for monetary sanctions. Last year, the court processed 6,000 cases, and 70 percent of those cases involved alcohol or drug offenses.

“Make no mistake, closing the jail will, in my opinion, have a profound and catastrophic impact on Middletown and its residents,” Sherron said. “Criminals who should be in jail will not be. Crime will increase. Drug-related activity and overdoses will increase. The city’s expenses will increase, and public safety will be further jeopardized. Middletown will no longer have control over many of the offenders committing crimes here.”

He also said neither Butler or Warren County will house non-violent misdemeanor offenders.

“Catch and release will become the routine,” Sherron said. “So someone charged with breaking in to your garage and stealing your mower today could be going after your snow blower tomorrow and never go to jail.”

Sherron said the community should be heard on this issue and that the future of the jail should not be left up to any one person or perhaps even council. He suggested that the question be put to a vote or at the least establish a task force or committee to investigate the options and repercussions of closing the jail before taking any other action.

“Once you close the jail, it will never re-open again,” he said.

After the meeting, Sherron said he believed council heard him and thinks it will result in a task force to look into the issue.

City officials have been discussing the possibility of closing the jail due to issues of compliance with state regulations and recommended reductions in the number of inmates that could be held there. The jail is located under the Middletown City Building and opened in 1976.

The state has recommended housing no more than 34 prisoners. Middletown has budgeted $1.3 million in 2019 to operate the full-service jail. The city is one of five municipalities that continue to operate a full-service jail as other communities have facilities for 12-days, 12-hours or 6-hour holding facilities until prisoners are transported to the county jail.

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