The Portage County Jail has been so crowded in the last few weeks that the Sheriff’s Office didn’t just run out of cells. It ran out of mattresses in the general population unit.
The jail has been placing mattresses on the floor of the justice center to allow additional prisoners to fit in the space, Sheriff David Doak said. However, corrections officers ran out of the extra mattresses, he said.
“It’s been an ongoing problem,” Doak said.
On June 14, the jail held 296 prisoners. The jail currently should hold only about 218 people.
On Monday, the jail held 240 people.
Overcrowding has been an ongoing problem at the facility, as it has been in most of Ohio’s county jails.
Renovations are being done to bring the maximum occupancy to 352.
Portage Commissioner Vicki Kline said the county hoped to have a new wing on the jail opened by mid-July.
Doak said he had started hiring staff for that addition, but the wing is not open.
“He’s in a tough spot out there,” Kline said, referring to Doak.
The renovations are expected to cost about $20 million and come from a five-year, 0.25 percent sales tax imposed on the county in 2015 that generates $21 million.
Kline said the judges have been working on using disciplinary measures such as probation instead of sending people to jail.
Doak said the office was already trying to release as many people as possible, especially those with misdemeanors, on recognizance bonds. These occur when a defendant has to tell the court they can pay the bond if they don’t show up to court. The defendant does not have to show proof of payment.
However, bond notices come from the judges and the probation department, not from the sheriff’s office, so the offices have to work together to get people out of the jail.
The sheriff’s office is also issuing more summonses for court dates, Doak said. A summons is a slip of paper that tells a defendant when to go to court and can be used on a lesser crime, such as a minor misdemeanor or a petty theft.
Doak noted the jail is busiest on Fridays and over the weekends, when the court is closed but indictments are issued to defendants.
“I don’t like it,” the sheriff said, referring to the overcrowding. “We’re trying to do everything we can to minimize it.”
Contact reporter Eileen McClory at 330-298-1128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Eileen_McClory.