Cincinnati Seeks More Jail Space

CINCINNATI – Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. says he doesn’t have enough room at the county's largest jail for a growing population of female inmates. Officials have attributed the 28 percent spike in women inmates over the last 10 years to increasing arrests for prostitution and drugs.

Sheriff Leis said his new policy of releasing female inmates as well as structural issues in the county's existing jails could push Hamilton County officials toward building a new lockup.

Until May, women charged with anything but the most serious felonies were arrested, photographed and fingerprinted at the jail, released and told to come back on their court date.

Now they are being kept overnight again at the justice center. Leis has proposed plans for new jails many times in his 16 years in service and he now thinks he might find the support necessary to pay for a new jail.

The county's biggest corrections issues, according to a recently received report from the assistant county commissioner, include the early release of women, a lack of beds available in other regional jails, and lower jail staffing than a decade ago while arrests are increasing.

Commissioners agree that a decision to build a new facility needs to come by summer's end. The assistant county commissioner recommended the county hire a consultant to study the situation. Leis said earlier this year that he prefers a 1,500-bed jail that would house both men and women.

The Hamilton County jail system has an average daily inmate population of 2,000, and an estimated 55,000 admissions annually. The local jail system is ranked in the top 25 largest in the nation.

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