Licking County looks to address jail overcrowding

NEWARK, OH (WCMH) — Over the weekend, 350 people were held by the Licking County Sheriff’s Office in their jail.

They were officially over-capacity, having run out of the 332 beds they had available.

Some inmates ended up having to sleep on cots as a result.

Overcrowding situations like this pose an ongoing safety issue for inmates and jail staff, according to Cpt. Chris Barbuto with the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office and the county commissioners are now looking for solutions to ease the pressure on the system.

They have contracts with other counties willing and able to take inmates in at a cost of $50-$60 per day per inmate.

Commissioner Tim Bubb says, it is a solution but only a temporary one.

“We don’t have the resources, nor do I think we have the capacity to indefinitely be shipping people all over the state,” said Bubb.

Talk of working with prosecutors and judges to seek probation and parole has been met with a lukewarm reception, in light of recent events in Kirkersville where a man on parole killed the police chief.

Some feel that incident is having an impact on decision-making.

“The tragedy that took place in our community is definitely being felt by everyone,” said Barbuto.

“I think it’s weighing heavily on people’s minds,” said Bubb.

Other options that could be explored include expanding the house arrest and ankle monitoring program.

Bubb says he and the other commissioners would be open to supporting that effort financially if it was put before them. However, Bubb says he would want assurances that it was being expanded not just to ease overcrowding at the jail but that it was being used as the best option for inmates at it.

Commissioner Bubb says the overcrowding issue is a relatively new one, however, if it persists the commissioners may have to look at expanding the jail.

They are able to do that thanks to past commissioners having the foresight to purchase property behind the jail back in the 90’s.

With Licking County’s population expected to reach 200,000 in the next 10 years, Bubb says an expansion may be inevitable.

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