When it comes to sharing, Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg said that he draws the line at inmates.
In a recent letter, Sheriff Rodenberg outlined his argument against renting jail space to other counties, noting in it a strong financial and social drawback to the concept.
“People have called lately and some citizens have asked me why we don’t try this,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “This was looked at in some detail back in the fall. I talked to Sheriff Leis myself and he didn’t like the idea either. This isn’t a permanent solution, it’s just a bandaid approach. If you need jail beds, you need them in your county.”
Last year, an announcement made news that Hamilton County was examining renting jail space in Clermont County. Clermont County currently suffers from an odd situation. The new jail is actually underfilled, but, due to the cost of staffing and running the facility, a portion of the jail is shut off, resulting in an actual shortage of jail space in the county. In Hamilton County, there is a shortage of jail space resulting from a lack of actual space to house inmates.
Recently, the National Institute of Corrections visited and inspected the Clermont County Jail, giving it high marks in the process. However, during the visit, Sheriff Rodenberg said that he questioned them on the issue, and received a strong answer.
"I asked them about it and they strongly recommended against any sharing of beds for that reason," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "In big cities, they have gangs, and I mean gangs. They are extremely violent. We're not equipped to deal with that, we've not had that in our jail. In order to deal with that properly, we'd have to retrain our staff, and even then, to deal with it, those people in our jail could be like a cancer."
The problem, said Sheriff Rodenberg, is the potential to take small-time criminals and house them with extremely violent ones, resulting in possible harm to inmates, or worse, an alliance that leads to escalated criminal activity in the county.
"You're just asking for trouble, there's no way to predict what will come from it," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "We don't want to bring these people in to make friends with our inmates and make associations. When they get out, they might decide that Clermont County isn't a bad place to live, and then we have them living here."
In addition, Sheriff Rodenberg said that the economics behind the move were questionable, resulting in a break even outcome, once additional corrections officers are hired. And in addition to the increased liability coming from what could be another counties worst criminals shipped to your doorstep, there comes the economic issue of what happens if the contract ends.
"The last thing I want to do is lay off staff," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "We would need about 10 more corrections officers to staff a new jail unit. Sometimes these agreements are only signed on a month basis, usually not more than a year. If they end the agreement, I'd be faced with laying off 10 people, and that's unacceptable. That's a road I don't even want to go down. This isn't a gain for us."
Previously, Clermont County rented space from another jail, said Sheriff Rodenberg, with poor results. Not only was it expensive for the county, but ultimately ineffectual as well. Plus, Sheriff Rodenberg said that the county is still liable to protect the inmates, even if they are in another county's jail.
"When I first became sheriff, we rented beds in another county and it didn't work out well," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "We sent them to the Dayton area, about 10 or 20 beds, and three of the inmates escaped and ended up back in the county. We re-arrested them. We also got complaints from the inmates that they weren't treated properly. We could be liable for that. When we get a prisoner, we're responsible for their care and welfare. If we send them somewhere and they're hurt, we can point our finger at them but we're still on the hook for it. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on that over a few years and stopped. It wasn't getting us anywhere or solving any problems."