Jones said it is the job of the prison system to house those sentenced by judges to the penitentiary. The sheriff began is career in the state prison system, serving as a major at Lebanon Correctional Institution in the 1990s.
“Butler County is not currently permitted to send us incarcerated adults,” said ODRC Director Annette Chambers-Smith. “This is as a result of positive cases being sent to us, as well as how much COVID is in the facility, how many staff and incarcerated people are positive in the facility they are coming from. It is a totality of circumstances and culminates in us receiving positives from another congregate setting.”
In addition to Butler, Ross and Clermont counties are also currently prohibited. Montgomery County has been prohibited for a couple of weeks but is expected to transport prisoners from the county facility to the state system this week, she said.
Since the March, 23 county jails have been under periods of prohibition from transporting prisoners due to positive test results, according to prison officials.
Chambers-Smith said the department has a team to work with county jails to return conditions to the point inmates can be transferred.
“This is the first time Butler County has been on restriction. Even when they sent us a positive person in the summer, we worked with them collaboratively to try to keep them turned on and make sure the systems and precautions were in place,” she said.
The director said Butler County is a “very well run facility. But, what we are taking about is COVID procedures. We are both operating congregate settings, and when someone is positive and moves from a county jail to a prison, they have that (person) to infect a new congregate (setting). And that (facility) sends people to all the prisons in the state as well as back home. It is not just about one person.”
Jones said he doesn’t believe any coronavirus-positive inmates were transported to ODRC.
“We don’t believe their tests are accurate. We even offered to go up and test them ourselves. Because you can get a false (result),” he said
Jones estimated that housing the 28 prisoners sentenced to ODRC has cost the county about $300,000, and he is going to bill them “for every cent. I probably won’t get it, but I will try.”
Coronavirus quarantine has decreased the county jail’s available space, and keeping inmates who should be in prison is making matters worse, he said.
“They (ODRC) will not communicate with us, they will not cooperate. They dictate these rules and they change all the time,” Jones said.
He added the prison system has more space, resources and even hospital facilities to care for sick prisoners.
Jones said new procedures are in place, including testing people before transport, but it can take three to five days to get tests back. So when they are retested in prison, it is possible they were exposed en route or even at the prison reception area.
“If there is not enough room in the jail, they have to get released. If we are keeping prisoners that should be in the prison, eventually there’s going to be no room in the jail,” Jones said.