Ohio pilot program pays localities to help with prison overflow, Medina one of eight

Posted at 11:16 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 10:38:15-05
Overcrowding in Ohio prisons is putting a strain on your tax dollars. So to keep costs low, state officials may soon be paying counties to take inmates off its hands.
Medina County is one of eight counties currently part of the pilot program, a program prison officials say can save the state $20 million in two years.
Medina County Judge Joyce Kimbler took office a little over two years ago and in that short time she’s seen a spike in the number of people that walk through her courtroom. “The filings the indictments have gone up 10, 15 percent and most of that is due to the opioid epidemic,” said Kimbler.
Many of these low-level offenders serve out their sentences at the county jail, but if the sentence exceeds six months, “Any more than 180 days and they have to be sent to prison.”
This has contributed to the increase in spending and overcrowding at state prisons, which is why the state approached Medina County about the targeted community alternative to prison program, a pilot program centered on keeping inmates local. “It keeps the money local, it keeps the inmates local and gives us more control over the process,” said Kimbler.
According to the state department of corrections, of the 20,000 new inmates they see yearly, 8,000 leave under a year. Medina County Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry says with the reimbursements they get from the state they have been able to expand much needed programs.
“We were able to hire a clinician in the jail, and they are able to assess the individual for opioid addiction," said Perry.
She says the county’s goal is to reduce recidivism by addressing any underlying problems. “it gives them the opportunity to get more of a running chance, I guess” said Perry.
The state pays these localities $23 per inmate, half the cost of housing them in a state prison. Governor John Kasich has included the program into his budget, if approved by the general assembly, prison officials are looking to expand it to 50 counties.