So Toledo thinks it can save money by citing certain crimes under the ORC, thus avoiding the payment for jail time, and the cost of bookings, when individuals are in the downtown jail awaiting court appearances or at CCNO (the Correctional Center of Northwest Ohio) out in Stryker, OH.
Of course, they plan to do this only on charges that are likely to result in jail time, like domestic violence, assault and DUI.
According to today's Blade article on the issue,
"Charging under state law means the city would lose about $700,000 in fine revenues, but would enjoy a net savings of $1.5 million by no longer having to pay daily booking charges at the county jail.
In addition, about $400,000 currently paid by the city to the office of the public defender would shift to the county."
And, of course, the County would then be responsible for these costs. In reality, this is Toledo's way of moving the costs of their own law enforcement onto the backs of the rest of the county - making other jurisdictions (like Maumee, Sylvania, Oregon and Ottawa Hills who also cite under their own code) pick up the tab for crimes in Toledo. And if they get away with this scheme, should we expect the other municipalities to do the same? Fair is fair, after all.
There are some jurisdictions in Lucas County who cite only under the ORC. The Sheriff and most village and township police departments are some. But the important thing to remember is that ALL citations within these jurisdictions are under the ORC.
Despite the fact that the County doesn't have the funds to pick up Toledo's costs, it appears that at least one commissioner, Pete Gerken, is looking at how to make that happen.
"Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said he met with Mr. Finkbeiner last week to discuss criminal-justice savings.
"I'm not offended they're trying to save money," Mr. Gerken said. "We're going to work together to cut costs. This is a complicated, ongoing process.""
Interestingly, Lucas County is known for the variety and extent of diversion programs we run to help avoid the high costs of incarceration. We have alcohol/drug programs and electronic monitoring, among others, which help keep the daily jail populations down. But Toledo, being the largest jurisdiction, ends up with much of the costs simply because of the volume of arrests they have.
Additionally, because of the Federal Court Order (FCO) on jail overcrowding, many defendants are booked and released on a regular basis. Most of those never report to court as scheduled resulting in bench warrants followed by another arrest, another booking, another release, another non-appearance and then another bench warrant. As recently as 2006, the failure to appear rate of such defendants in Toledo Municipal Court was around 50%.
This revolving door obviously results in higher booking costs for Toledo, not to mention the manpower costs of continually arresting such individuals. Despite the need for more jail space in general, and to hold daily non-violent offenders with a history of bench warrants specifically, the City of Toledo long ago lost interest in joining with the County to build a new Muni-Court/Jail facility. And then the Sheriff decided, despite a long history of asking for a new facility, that he could get by on what he had if the County spent millions to do some renovations and security improvements.
As it is, the 2007 County budget for the county correction center (official name of the downtown jail) is $20.85 million. The 2007 County budget for CCNO is $4.63 million. And with declining sales tax revenues and no more funds expected from the state to help with the cost of public defenders, the County really doesn't have way to cover these costs.
Besides, the real problem isn't who can pay for these costs, it's in finding a way to eliminate the needless revolving door in the jail that drives up these costs.
But that would require a long-term plan rather than just a shifting of Toledo's costs onto the county as a whole. Two commissioners, having been on Toledo City Council, have shown a propensity for 'taking care of' Toledo and it's problems. But when your budget director says "we sure don't have the money," it's hard to see how they'll justify such a scheme without having an outright revolt in all the other jurisdiction - or without every other jurisdiction with its own code doing the exact same thing.
In the end, Toledo can legally make this change, but with the Mayor being so critical of other jurisdictions when their actions are perceived by him to have a negative impact on Toledo (remember his tirade against Wood County when it looked like FedEx might move there???), he'll be hard pressed to explain how this would not be hypocritical...but then again...