New jail standards include fewer meals for inmates

Clermont County jail. File photo
Clermont County jail. File photo

A new set of regulations for Ohio jails went into effect on Sunday.

It's the first time they've been updated since 2003.

The new standards allow jails to serve inmates two meals instead of three on weekends and limit showers to every other day. Jail staff will now be allowed to review prisoner's emails for security reasons and monitor and record inmate visits.

But every sheriff's office can decide for themselves if they want to enforce the new standards.

Money is a big area of concern with the new rules and a county's decision to change could have an impact on how much residents pay in taxes.

About 20,000 inmates spend all their time in one of Ohio's 90 jails but new minimum jail standards could affect a big part of their day.

"You have to meet the minimum standard, you have to come up to the bar, but you can go more than that," Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg told FOX19 in March.

Rodenberg says financially they're in really good shape, so they don't need to make a whole lot of changes.

"Some of the smaller counties are really hurt and by cutting back on some of this they might be able to trim enough off to keep them out of the hole so to speak," he said.

So what are the potential savings?

Rodenberg says when it comes to food, each meal costs about one dollar. They serve about 300 inmates, and that comes out to just more than $31,000 of potential savings annually. He says for now they plan to stick to three meals a day on the weekends for the well-being of the inmates.

"What are we going to do to save money that could create tension and further problems and then we got a major problem on our hands just to save a few dollars," he said.

But last month Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones told FOX19 they plan on supporting nearly all of the changes.

He says if you combine the different departments and multiply the savings from multiple cutbacks, the state will save millions, something that benefits taxpayers.

"I think they should save money for the taxpayers if at all possible," said Rosa Stocker, a Clermont County resident.

Stocker says she want inmates to have adequate conditions, but she wishes the sheriff's office would reconsider enforcing some of these rules for the taxpayers.

"The common person out here working every day, we're the ones that deserve a little bit, not the people in jail. They need to sit in there and think about what they've done," she said.

There's about 180 revised standards altogether, some of them even improve the treatment of the mentally ill.

FOX19 spoke with the ACLU who says they see both progressive and regressive reform in these changes.

The proposed changes are a result from a 2012 statewide jail survey and assessment.

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