The population of the Hamilton County Jail is on the rise. If nothing changes, the sheriff says he may have to start letting people go.
A little more than 1,400 inmates are being housed at the facility, and jail officials say that number will grow as the months become warmer. A new state mandate will require that lower-level felony offenders be housed at local jails instead of prisons starting in July.
The sheriff's office says the addition could bring 250 to 300 more inmates inside the jail.
"Could this jail hold 1,900? Can this jail hold 2,000 offenders? No, it can't," said Sheriff Jim Neil. "It was built for 840."
Some time ago, modifications were made to the jail that allows it to hold 1,240 inmates. In June, the sheriff declared a State of Emergency after the population went above 1,600.
Some inmates sleep on stackable beds because there isn't enough cell space.
"The population of this region is very large, and our county jail is just not adequate to deal with the demands on it today because we're dealing with an opioid epidemic, which is driving the crime, too,” Neil said.
Neil says half of the inmates have admitted to the jail's medical staff they are drug users.
"Eventually, we're going to exceed the limits that we can house here and the only thing you could do is let people out,” said Neil.
That would mean letting pre-sentence offenders go free for the time being.
Along with other medical and service entities, the Neil is working with the county to find a solution.
When asked whether the old Queensgate Correctional Facility that closed in 2008 could offer a solution, Neil said it is an option.
"We're looking at it, absolutely," he said. "It looks today like the day I left."
Neil says more space could help deal with issues like drug treatment.