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Overcrowding Prompts Sheriff To Send Inmates To Butler County

Bill Rinehart
Hamilton County's Justice Center was designed to hold 842 inmates.

Hamilton County's sheriff says the jail is dangerously overcrowded. Jim Neil says the jail is only authorized to hold 1,240 prisoners. Last weekend, the population climbed over 1,600.

"It's creating a lot of tension. Tension not only among us, the employees, but a lot of tension with the contracted employees and a lot of tension in the population that is serving time here."

He's sent 25 inmates to Butler County to relieve some of the pressure, and is looking for more space in other surrounding counties. He calls that's a short term solution and is looking for something permanent.

"Right now we've reached a boiling point and I had to open up a relief valve. And you're saying 'what's 25 offenders?' Well, I tell you, 25 offenders is like going elephant hunting with a BB gun. But at least we're doing something."

Neil says there aren't enough shower and bathroom facilities for inmates, and some prisoners are sleeping in unsecured areas. He says the jail population traditionally climbs in the summer and he's especially worried because summer hasn't started yet.

Neil blames the opioid epidemic, in part, for the increase.

Hamilton County pays Butler County $75 per day, per inmate. That doesn't include transportation costs associated with the moving prisoners.

Neil says he's alerted Hamilton County Commissioners to the situation and will work with them and the court system to find a solution.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.