How do criminals get out of jail early?

By Dan Wells - bio | email
Posted by Trina Edwards - email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - With Hamilton County facing an $11 million budget deficit and asking for more cuts from the prosecutor and sheriff's offices, Sheriff Simon Leis says he may have to let some criminals out of jail early.

"What I basically do is fingerprint them, take his picture and give them a court date in the future, and put them out right out the door," said Leis.

Hamilton County Judge Heather Russell says its frustrating letting criminals stay on the streets.

"Yes, he (Leis) is letting people out because of overcrowding, and no he does not have to get permission from a judge or a prosecutor at anytime when he lets someone out," she said.

Judge Russell says the sheriff is actually required to let criminals out according to a federal mandate that says the county must release inmates when any part of the jail reaches its capacity.

So what happens when an inmate is in the middle of a jail sentence and room is needed for a more serious offender?

"I start at 80 percent, meaning if a person served 80 percent of their sentence, I will release that person until such time as I meet the cap," said Leis.

Both Judge Russell and Sheriff Leis agree the system is flawed, and neither can even estimate how many inmates may be released early as the budget crunch gets worse.