A committee appointed by Portage County commissioners to look at the needs of the county jail will hold its first meeting next week.
Overcrowding of the 17-year-old jail, on Infirmary Road in Shalersville, has been a growing issue in recent months. Portage County Sheriff Dave Doak has raised the issue with commissioners, who have allocated $305,000 for additional security measures in the past year.
The state cited the facility for overcrowding of female inmates following an inspection late last year. The survey by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reported the county jail was out of compliance with seven of 68 standards selected from the "Minimum Standards for Jails in Ohio." The jail was cited for having female inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the day area in the women's cell "pod."
At the time, the jail had 124 males and 47 female inmates. The facility is allowed 220 inmates total, with 34 spaces allotted for female inmates.
Appointed to serve on what commissioners have labeled an "exploratory committee" are: Doak; Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci; Public Defender Dennis Lager; Auditor Janet Esposito; Shalersville Trustee Nancy Vines; Sheriff's Capt. Rick Neal; JoAnn Townend, who is the commissioners' internal services director; Cathy Poling, representing the Adult Probation Department; Robert Burgess, bailiff to Judge Laurie Pittman; Joel Mowrey of the Mental Health & Recovery Board; Mark Frisone of Family & Community Services, Inc.; and community members David Kessler, Bruce Ribelin and Tom Zawistowski.
The committee is scheduled to meet for the first time on Wednesday in the commissioners' board room of the Portage County Administration Building in Ravenna.
In setting up the committee, commissioners discussed having the group look at the full range of options available, from alternative sentencing to adding an additional "pod" of cell space to the jail.
When it was designed some 20 years ago, the jail was designed for such expansion as needed, commissioners said.
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