The Mahoning County Justice Center (MCJC) houses the Sheriff’s General Headquarters and Jail facility, located at 110 Fifth Avenue in downtown Youngstown. Administrative and Field Operations personnel moved into the facility in November, 1995. Inmates first occupied the MCJC in March 1996. The facility has a current State of Ohio approved capacity of 432 inmates. The County received 30% reimbursement from the state for its project costs. The primary mission of the jail is to house all pre-trial detainees who are unable to post bond, as well as incarcerate sentenced offenders. Based on inmate classification levels, violent and non-violent inmates are housed in separate cells and housing areas. Persons awaiting trial for every category of misdemeanor and felony crimes, including drug abuse, domestic violence, and criminal homicide, constitute almost 75% to 80% of the daily population. The remaining population is sentenced offenders ineligible for a minimum security classification.
Adjacent to the MCJC is the Sheriff’s Minimum Security Jail, located at 360 W. Commerce Street. Its state-rated capacity is 96 inmates, and all are sentenced, non-violent offenders. The facility opened in October 1994 and had 60% of its project costs reimbursed by the state. Inmates housed in this facility are often seen in green uniforms outside cutting grass, painting over graffiti, picking up litter, or engaged in facility housekeeping or community improvement efforts countywide.
The need and capacity for these facilities were determined by studies of Mahoning County’s Criminal Justice System, the County’s Corrections Planning Board, elected and appointed Mahoning County officials, and a Federal Court Consent Decree. The Court action was a result of inmate litigation over conditions at the old Boardman Street Jail that opened in 1956.
For the past four years (1999-2002), both the main jail and minimum security jail operations achieved 100% compliance on the Annual State Inspection which covers a select group of State Minimum Standards. Staff are currently in the process of pursuing State of Ohio Certification from the Bureau of Adult Detention. This certification involves total compliance with all 340 state Minimum Standards. Compliance to these Minimum Standards will reduce Mahoning County’s exposure to civil liability while reducing the county’s insurance rates.
Through the diligent efforts and combined abilities of department staff at all levels, and adequate funding provided by the Board of Commissioners, Mahoning County was able to petition the Federal Court for relief from Federal monitoring and legal costs. Accordingly, the Court Order impacting jail operations was dissolved in November 2001, some eight (8) years after the filing of the class-action inmate lawsuit. The operation of both jails is now directly in the hands of the Sheriff with normal inspections and routine monitoring occurring by the State of Ohio.
Apart from its mission of incarceration, rehabilitative programming is provided at both facilities to help reintegrate persons back into their communities. Examples of such programs include:
Commitment to Change Programs, Substance Abuse Education, Stress and Anger Management, Adult Basic Education, Life Skills Programs, Parenting, Alcoholics Anonymous, HIV/AIDS Awareness, Domestic Violence Intervention, Mental Health Counseling, and post release community resource referrals.
Religious services, programming, and spiritual guidance for all denominations is provided to the inmate population, along with participation in alcoholics anonymous support groups, thanks to some 43 volunteers from the community.
Operations at both jails return revenue to the County’s General Fund by charging inmates an intake processing fee as well as medical co-pays. Commissions are generated from coin-less inmate payphones, and per-diem fees are collected from the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and the City of Youngstown for housing inmates awaiting trial on federal offenses or municipal ordinances, respectively.
Note: Specific jail statistics and dollar amounts can be found in the statistics appendix.
The inmate commissary program is a service where inmates purchase items such as snacks, stamps, stationary, and hygiene products. Profits from this service are used for purchases that directly benefit the inmates such as recreation equipment, TVs, books, etc. No taxpayer dollars are spent. This program returns approximately $6,280 per month in revenue to the revolving commissary fund.
Food Service for the inmates is provided by Canteen Services pursuant to a contract that was competitively bid. Such contracted or privatized services at the jail began in 1994 and all food, supplies, and staffing costs are included in the per meal costs. Meals are cooked from scratch at the Justice Center. This rate is based on a sliding scale depending on actual meals served per day. An excerpt of the scale follows:
1300 meals per day..........$1.03
1400 meals per day..........$1.01
1500 meals per day..........$x.98
Medical Services at the facility were also privatized in April, 1996. The current provider is Prison Health Services (PHS), and the terms of the contract require the contractor to provide comprehensive inmate health care services in compliance with state and national standards. Included are all medications, physicians’ services, testing, hospitalization, risk management, and indemnification, etc.
For calendar year 2001, the average monthly number of inmates on psychiatric medications was 81, reflecting 15.94% of the inmate population. Pre-trial detainees as well as sentenced offenders are being treated for bi-polar disorders, severe depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses.
Inmates are also routinely tested for TB, Venereal Disease, and other communicable diseases if their incarceration exceeds ten days. Over 3300 inmates were given such tests in 2001. Inmates who are classified as medically high risk based on intravenous drug use, prostitution or high-risk sexual activity, are also tested for HIV.
AIDS and AIDS related conditions being treated in the jail with medications average 6 inmates, or 1.13% of the monthly population.