Hamilton County jail limits prisoner intake amid staffing shortage

Hamilton County jail limits prisoner intake amid staffing shortage
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 12:15 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 7:49 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Hamilton County’s jail was not closed overnight, Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey announced during a news conference Monday, stressing that deputies instead restricted inmate intake.

“What happened was a very poor choice of words. What was meant to be sent out was we simply used a restricted protocol to modify those individuals that we would bring in-house,” the sheriff said.

“At no time did we ever turn away anybody that was charged with a serious crime, and the jail was not closed,”

Late Sunday, Kyla Woods, sheriff’s spokeswoman, confirmed in a statement to FOX19 that was then provided to all other media that “Intake at the Hamilton County Justice Center is closed until 7 a.m. (Monday) but we will accept individuals who fall into these three categories: Physical arrest (in which they may pose a threat to the public); Felony or Violent Offense. Law enforcement agencies are aware that they have the option to cite an individual and assign a court date for any charges that do not fall in the three categories listed above.”

This comes amid a staffing shortage of corrections officers at the county jail and other recent developments including:

  • Woods confirmed to FOX19 NOW on Jan. 10 “we are currently understaffed” when asked about the staffing of corrections officers at the jail. Retaining corrections officers is hard industry-wide, other Ohio sheriffs have said.
  • McGuffey calls for changing requirements at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. Now, recruits must pass a physical fitness test, which includes a 1.5-mile run, before being permitted to proceed to the written test also required to graduate. She says it is fairer to give recruits the written test first and then the fitness one. If recruits can’t pass the fitness test, at least they have the written one complete and can continue to work on achieving the physical requirements, she has said.
  • A rape investigation is underway by the sheriff’s office after an inmate reported being raped at the justice center early Jan 4 by her cellmate “who is a biological male who identifies as a female and is believed to be in some stage of gender transition,” court records show. No charges have been filed.

The county jail classified the accused inmate, who is 6′3 and weighs 200 as a female and placed the person in a cell in the female section with a female inmate who is 4′11 and weighs 160, according to the accused inmate’s booking sheet and the incident report.

The state prison system, where the accused inmate is now, classifies the inmate as male. The person is being held in a prison for women, in the infirmary, as of last week, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The sheriff’s office has been tight-lipped about the case, citing the ongoing investigation.

Here’s the number of corrections officers working at the jail by year’s end since 2019, according to Woods as of Jan. 10:

  • 2019 – 304
  • 2020 – 304
  • 2021 - 327 uniformed staff and 60 support staff
  • 2022 - Approximately 250 Corrections Officers

We told Woods earlier this month we heard the jail is supposed to have 342 correction officers, but there are 240, and two floors are now closed due to staffing issues. We asked if this was accurate and if this was what they would consider any kind of a dire staffing shortage. She did not respond to those specific questions.

She did release, also at our request, the number of inmates housed in the justice center during that same time period:

  • 2019: 1,425
  • 2020: 1,282
  • 2021: 1,236
  • 2022: 1,158