Citizens group tells Middletown council to keep city jail open

A representative of a local citizens group that performed an analysis of the Middletown City Jail urged the Middletown City Council not to close the facility.

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Last winter, city officials were looking at possibly closing the 44-year-old facility. At the time, then-police chief Rodney Muterspaw recommended that officials perform research on how the closure would impact the community and revisit the issue in 2020.

Harvey Poff, a retired police officer, police commander and public safety director for Butler Tech’s Public Safety Education Center, said fellow citizens, business people and others “established our own task force” to look at the issue.

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“If the jail closed, we’d have to rely on other agencies,” he said. “If we go to issuing summonses, people will toss them.”

He said the city needs to keep the jail open and also hire a warrant officer to serve the backlog of outstanding warrants and not pull officers off of patrolling the streets.

Poff said his first night working for Middletown police found him working at the jail on its first night of operation and said the 36 beds were full by 10 p.m. that night. He said city officials increased the capacity by double-bunking soon afterward.

In the report submitted to council, the group noted the average daily jail population was 53.5 inmates that cost up to $70 to house each day. He said the city would have to pay officers to transport prisoners to the Butler or Warren county jails as well as the additional wear and tear on the vehicles in addition to taking officers off the streets.

He said the city used to house prisoners for other jurisdictions but has stopped doing that.

The jail formerly had a contract to house prisoners from the city of Trenton but stopped due to a $26,000 past due bill from that city. Part of that issue was that Middletown did not bill Trenton in a timely manner, according to Middletown police officials. Middletown said that bill has not been paid, and Trenton officials could not be reached for comment for this story.

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Poff said the city would lose revenue from fines and costs collections from cases in Middletown Municipal Court that amounted to more than $1.02 million in 2018 because officers would have to arrest under state code rather than municipal ordinance.

The group’s four-page report recommended the city continue to operate the full-service jail “with an appropriate jail population of 60 to 70 inmates.

“The City Jail should remain open as there is not a cost savings if the jail is closed. Instead, there will be a significant cost increase,” the report said.

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The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s Bureau of Adult Detention, which oversees and inspects local and county jails and holding facilities, last inspected the Middletown jail on Nov. 27, 2018. In a letter dated Feb. 6, 2019, state officials notified the city that the jail was compliant with 100 percent of the essential standards and at least 90 percent of the important standards outlined in the Ohio Minimum Jail Standards.

The next state jail inspection is scheduled for Nov. 5, according to city spokeswoman Shelby Quinlivan.

In late August, city officials completed a review about possibly closing the jail or transitioning to a 12-day or 12-hour holding facility. That report said keeping the current facility open was the most cost-effective option for the city. It also said the daily population of inmates from January to August 2019 was 39.3 inmates.

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City Manager Doug Adkins said the jail is fully funded for 2020 at $1.31 million, an increase over the 2019 budget of $1.27 million. The 2020 budget reflects the cost to house up to 40 inmates per day.

“I’ve not been asked by council for any additional information or analysis on keeping or closing the jail into the future at this time,” Adkins said. “The jail closure discussion would need to be initiated by council”

BY THE NUMBERS: Middletown City Jail

  • $1.31 million - Amount budgeted to operate the jail in 2020, up 3.2 percent over 2019 budget
  • 9,391 - Square footage of the Middletown City Jail
  • 2014 - The last time the Middletown City Jail was "compliant" since changes in state mandates that year
  • 100 - Percentage of compliance with essential standards of Ohio Minimum Jail Standards per 2018 inspection
  • 90- Percentage of compliance with important standards of Ohio Minimum Jail Standards per 2018 inspection
  • 70 - Jail's total actual general housing capacity
  • 40 - Number of inmates housed daily under the 2020 budget
  • 39.3 - Average daily population of inmates at the jail Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, 2019
  • 34 - State recommended number of inmates to be housed there
  • 32 - Number of individual cells
  • 5 - Middletown is one of five Ohio municipalities that operate a full-service jail
  • 4 - Number of holding cells
  • 2 - Number of important standards that were non-compliant in the Ohio Minimum Jail Standards/2018 inspection
  • 1 - Trustee room


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