LUCAS COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Lucas County Commissioners are using the recent fight with the city of Toledo over who pays for inmates at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (CCNO) to create criminal justice reform.
A unanimous vote by commissioners Wednesday created a partnership with the MacArther Foundation with the goal of reducing the CCNO population by 30 percent.
"It's the first place it's done, been quite like this in the country to reduce over-incarceration," said Carol Contrada, Commissioner.
Here's how it happened:
Lucas County used to have 203 beds at CCNO and Toledo had 228. Now that the city has pulled out of CCNO, the 228 beds were left for the county to pay for. Instead of picking up and using all 228, Lucas County will only be using 100.
Since people won't stop committing crimes because the extra 128 beds aren't there, risk assessments funded by the MacArthur Foundation will be conducted on prisoners.
People of low risk will be recommended for release. Contrada says some people who are released will wear GPS monitoring units, just one of the tools used to hold people accountable for their actions outside of a jail.
"Data shows that some people who are incarcerated show a greater risk of committing new offenses by virtue of being incarcerated, so what you want to do is keep the community safe by holding defendants accountable, but you also don't want them to commit a new crime," said Contrada.
Since there will be fewer beds, judges will have to decide which prisoners go to CCNO and which can be released - a decision based on the risk assessments. Contrada says judges in Lucas County support this change.
According to Matt Heyrman, county director of Public Health and Safety, Toledo Municipal Court has a 150 bed limit, Lucas County Common Pleas gets 123, Sylvania gets 16, Oregon gets eight, and Maumee gets six.
Judge Tim Kuhlman, with Toledo Municipal Court, says it will be a challenge to work with his bed limit of 150, a number he says he can't even go one over.
"But I believe that we can do that safely, we can protect the public and still hold defendants accountable while managing that 150 limit," said Judge Kuhlman.
Judge Kuhlman says too many people are incarcerated in the United States.
"We can hold defendants accountable for committing crimes, without incarcerating as many people as we do," said Kuhlman.