MINERVA — When a Marlboro Township man recently convicted in a stray-bullet case serves his jail sentence, it won’t be in the Stark County Jail.
The man whose bullet had been meant for a coyote but instead struck a neighbor’s house has been ordered to serve 30 days in jail, beginning in August, at the Minerva village jail at 209 N. Market St. It’s the only overnight lockup in the county.
Stark County cities like Alliance, Canton and Massillon maintain jail cells at their police departments, but those are temporary holding facilities. Inmates are transported to the Stark County Jail, which routinely holds more than 400 prisoners.
Ohio is home to 53 12-day jails, according to Sara French, deputy communication chief for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The state also features 93 full-service jails, she said.
But some prisoners can pay to stay in Minerva’s quieter setting.
Minerva Police Chief Christopher H. Miller oversees the five-cell village jail as a pay-as-you-stay facility.
Out-of-town prisoners must pay their own way by forking over $50 a night upfront for every night they’ve been sentenced.
The jail accepts prisoners via the village mayor’s court as well as out-of-town jurisdictions for nonviolent crimes.
Miller said that someone who fails to show up for a court date or fails to pay court-ordered fines often winds up behind the heavy steel doors inside the small lockup.
“Sometimes it’s college kids that might get arrested for underage drinking and a judge doesn’t want to send them to the county jail. Obviously, that’s a little rougher crowd. Here, you have a private cell. So it’s a little more congenial for someone who’s never been to jail before,” Miller said.
It’s not that the village jail can’t house hard-core criminals. It just can’t hold them for long.
The jail is only permitted by Ohio law to handle prisoners whose sentence will enable incarceration in 12-day increments. Usually, that means misdemeanor violations.
“With the felonies, we book them into the appropriate county jail,” Miller said. Part of Minerva is in Stark County and the other part is in Carroll County. In addition to Minerva, his dispatchers address calls for Paris and Washington townships in Stark County and for Brown Township in Carroll County.
“The large majority” of its jail prisoners are held from one to three days, the chief said.
“We’ll get one for six days maybe once or twice a year,” he said.
That makes the Marlboro Township man’s sentencing a little unusual. He was convicted over the Feb. 4 gunfire that ricocheted and blasted through a window and three walls inside a neighbor’s house, narrowly missing an 8-year-old girl on her bed.
Miller said the Marlboro Township man will have to split serving his sentence at least twice.
Built in 1982, the Minerva jail comprises four individual cells and a fifth cell called a “holding tank.” The holding tank is a larger cell with two-way windows designed for prisoners who must be constantly monitored, such as someone on a suicide watch.
The windows are visible from the dispatch center and officers can look in, but prisoners can’t see out, Miller explained.
When it comes to the amenities, frozen dinners heated in the jail microwave are the daily fare.
“Whether you stay here one day or 12 days, you get the same thing for morning, lunch and evening for dinner,” the chief said, pulling frozen meals from the refrigerator in the police department’s training room.
Miller said breakfast is Aunt Jemima’s scrambled eggs and sausage, lunch is the Hungry Man turkey dinner and dinner is the Hungry Man meatloaf — every day.
Some prisoners have an aversion to frozen dinners.
“We have people who might come in for a day or two, they absolutely refuse to eat TV dinners. And then you have other prisoners that come in that literally lick the tray,” he said.