Sheriff: 'State of emergency' at Hamilton County jail

Sheriff: 'State of emergency' at Hamilton County jail

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Sheriff Jim Neil declared a "state of emergency" due to overcrowding at the Hamilton County Justice Center.

The jail is outside the acceptable practices and operating "far below" the state's minimum jail standards, Neil wrote in a letter to Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune.

The "state of emergency" comes after the jail "reached a boiling point" due to overcrowding this past week, said Neil.

"I'll remind you this is not an easy decision, but it is the right thing to do and my only option," said Neil. "State law does not allow me to alter sentences."

Neil has reached out to neighboring counties to determine their ability to house a number of the inmates in an attempt to alleviate part of the overcrowding.

"I cannot and will not jeopardize the safety of my deputies and subject them to an ongoing volatile, dangerous environment in our jail," said Neil. "Nor will I put the inmates, medical staff and others in harm's way."

As many as 50 inmates sleep in an open area, according to the sheriff.

"What's unacceptable is having a population, an inmate population sleeping out in the open with a minimum of two officers providing security," said Neil.

The sheriff has been working with county administrator to help fix the issue.

It's an issue jail commanders said brings other problems like sleeping arrangements, medical attention, security concerns and employees/labor issues, just to name a few.

With the increase in population, there have been more acts of violence, according to jail officials.

"We have to do something about this, it's not safe for the men and women who work here, the medical staff," Major Chris Ketteman said.

The jail originally was designed to house 842 inmates, with modifications the limit became 1240, and over the weekend the jail peak at 1611. So, the sheriff decided to start moving some inmates.

"So effective today I was able send 25 of our offenders up to Butler County Jail," said Neil.

It's a move Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said was unnecessary.

"There was no need, absolutely no need to send anybody to Butler County today," he said.

Portune said the move is expensive.

He's said there are several options that can be taken instead of housing inmates in other facilities, One option would be to send inmates to another facility in Hamilton County. He's said a task force has been working to fix the issue. He also said he even met with judges to find solutions.

For approximately a year now, Neil has been warning other county agencies about "the disturbing and upward trend of our inmate population count at the jail," he wrote.

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