‘You’d probably be amazed’: A look at the crimes that take place inside the Hamilton County Justice Center

Crimes inside the Justice Center

CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Justice Center hosts prisoners of all sorts. Some are serving out a sentence, some are awaiting trial but they’re all facing some kind of criminal charge.

Authorities deal with a lot of problems at the center, including a recent vandalism case where, investigators say, an inmate damaged a jail window. These are the kinds of cases where the taxpayer comes into the picture in terms of repair costs.

But vandalism is only one of the problems investigators are looking at inside the justice center.

“We investigate probably anywhere between 25 and 30 incidents in a month,” Sgt. Garry Keeton said.

Keeton and his partner Deputy Jessica Jones work together on the crimes after the crimes, focusing solely on activity inside the justice center. Often charges are filed before inmates even see the inside of a cell.

“You’d probably be amazed at the amount of drugs that we find on people downstairs in intake,” Keeton said.

In the last three years, on average, investigators have a new case on their desk daily whether it be re-engineered toothbrush shanks, bloody needles, escape attempts or the assaults that make up the vast majority of the charges filed at the justice center.

“These inmates have all day long to think of things and then they’re around people that they shouldn’t be around. Because they know them on the street, they had interaction out there, maybe fighting or whatever," Keeton said. “And then, sometimes they get drugs and that plays a part in it.”

Drugs are where investigations take some strange turns because inmates will go to extreme lengths to get drugs into the jail. Sgt. Keeton says that’s because the value of those drugs increases exponentially inside these walls.

“They’ve gone as far as getting pregnant females on the outside, giving them the drugs to put up inside of them, and then have them bring it in because they know we won’t be scanning them because they’re pregnant,” Keeton said.

This year alone, 125 drug-related contraband reports have been filed. The job at the justice center is not only to keep deputies safe, but it’s also about protecting other inmates.

“You have people who come to jail to try to get help. You have addicts and when you have people and they’re waving them in front of their face, of course they’re going to do it," Jones said. “You have people who come to jail, they’re paying for their mistakes, they don’t want to have to look over their shoulder.”

There are usually two investigators assigned to every shift here in the jail, and they keep busy: There were 375 documented incidents in 2016, 330 in 2017 and 297 last year. The majority of these are assaults, but among them are charges related to vandalism, drugs and harassment.

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