Thursday, November 15, 2007

Toledo tries to shift its costs to everyone else

Toledo's new (actually old) idea to save money is to start citing certain crimes under the Ohio Revised Code rather than under the Toledo Municipal Code. How will this save money? Because the code determines who pays for the costs of incarceration (both pre- and post-conviction) and who gets any fines imposed as a result of a guilty finding.

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...


-Sepp said...

I'll be living in P-burg twp by the end of the month. I've always said I'd like to move and then sit back and laugh at this type of crap. Except that it's gone from being funny into being nothing less than degrading to the people of this city.
The sad thing? Toledo will reelect Carty again...then I will have no choice but to laugh.

Greenracks said...

Toledo isn't interested in building a larger facility. That would cost money not only for the building, but the staff needed to run it. I bet though if we allowed public executions, and charged per views (say $50) there would be a large turnout.

Maggie Thurber said...

Actually, Greenracks, the efficiency study done just after I became a commissioner showed that a new facility would NOT require more staff, as the layout would allow existing staff to more effectively guard additional numbers of inmates.

Further, a combined facility would share HVAC, common areas and door security so that two structures (the jail and the court) would not each be paying for such...

Greenracks said...

Here's an idea. This link,, points out that Wood County is paying to house some of their inmates in other counties jails. We could either do the same (if we are worried about prisoners being let out), or build a larger facility, and charge above the cost per day, and make a "profit". We could turn our jail into a "profit center" for other counties' criminal population.

Maggie Thurber said...

Good idea. In fact, one suggestion being considered, because of the availability of federal funds for programs, was to have a 'women's prison' within the downtown jail, should a new one be built...which would have allowed for other communities to send their female prisoners here, making us money...alas...

Greenracks said...

The problem I have with a "women's prison" is that inevitably we will have bastards being conceived there. Will we lose more money in lawsuits from these "inconveniences" than we might gain in having such a facility?

Greenracks said...

Maggie, has anyone looked at the cost of contracting out the jail, or a new jail, to a private corp? Could this save the city money in the future? And how do we stop the "revolving" door? Does Toledo needs a marshals service devoted only to returning suspects to city jurisdiction? This might get around contracts the city has with the TPD.

Maggie Thurber said...

Don't believe anyone has looked at privatizing the jail - or if that is even allowed under Ohio law.

As for the revolving door, the problem isn't finding the people with the bench warrants, but finding a place to hold them until the next morning for court. There have been some old conversations about a night court to instantly adjudicate them - but if they ask for a public defender or plead not-guilty, they would get scheduled for a future date - and then not show up, and the cycle starts again.

Greenracks said...

I like the idea of a night court. I used to work the evening shift myself. The world doesn't stop at 6:00 PM. Maybe pay young lawyers a premium for working in the evenings, or early morning.

I wonder about a new jail. Is there room at the present location to expand? If we had to build with added stories are there safety issues that could result in lawsuits? If we decided we needed a bigger footprint where could we go? One of the advantages of having the jail near the courts is more security, and less travel time. But we could theoretically build it out on the old Northtown Square site, or even Southwyck (if we could buy it). If we build at the current site how would we house prisoners during the process of building the new jail, or would we just add on to the structure we have?

Maggie Thurber said...

The original preferred location was where the current Health Department sits. That the Health Department could move (perhaps to the old Riverside Hospital?) and then a new jail and new muni court would be built there and over toward the existing muni court. There were some pretty nice drafts of what the building could look like...

Greenracks said...

I wonder how much these facilities would cost? One thing I would insist on is videoconferencing. That would keep the defendent in the jail, and allow him to see the trial, and do his part. Defense attorneys might not like it. Unless they could get a suit over his prison garb. We would probably have to expand the jail size since I imagine less people would get off. But we'd get the criminals off the streets.

Kurt said...

A new, or bigger jail is certainly necessary. This federal court mandate is simply an attempt by the court to force the city/county to build a new jail. In my opinion, it is working. As bad as it sounds, we have too many people that need to be locked up and it will only get worse as our local economy continues to decline. When the economy declines, crime goes up. The ideal solution is to create jobs, but this market simply won't allow it. There can be no growth in the market unless there is investment. Jobs don't come without investment. Quicken Loans recently decided to invest in Detroit, in an effort to diversify that economy. What can we do to diversify our economy? We can nolonger rely on manufacturing, particularly considering the fact that the Dodge Nitro isn't selling (nor should we rely on any one thing).

Carty piggybacked off the booming economy of the 1990's, and somehow got elected for this term. His effort, while valiant, is insufficient. Carty is smart in the respect that he knows how to reach the hearts and minds of his constituents, but his arrogance detracts from any future gain.

He has made no effort to attract NEW JOBS. Obviously, the old doesn't work anymore.

In this respect, however, I have to criticize toledoans in general. We have the opportunity to create jobs with a new coking plant, yet many toledoans oppose it because they're concerned about the level of mercury this coking plant might emit. However, this coking plant will be the most environmentally efficient coking plant in the world, and it will create additional energy to add to the grid (lowering our cost), but yet any mercury is somehow evil. Screw that. It's a step in the right direction.

Toledo is a blue collar town. This means that most people aren't educated enough to sustain a knowledge friendly economy. But this coking plant will create a nexis between creating jobs and increasing education. I'm ashamed that anybody in this city is against this coking plant. I'd explain more, but I think it will be lost on people.

As for jails, greenracks, yes toledo should build a new jail. If we can profit from it, even better.

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