Plans underway in Allen County to release non-violent offenders from jail

LIMA — Non-violent, low-level offenders currently housed in the Allen County jail will be released over the next week to 10 days in an effort to reduce the overall inmate population at the county correctional facility.

Sheriff Matt Treglia on Friday said local officials are starting to stay ahead of the curve in addressing potential health concerns and complications associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Right now our jail is safe, and we want to maintain that,” the sheriff said. “The best way to do that is to get some of the population out of here that doesn’t absolutely need to be here. We are working with judges to release inmates who do not pose a physical danger to society. This will include nearly all inmates who are not currently being housed for offenses of violence.”

Treglia said he met with all six county judges — common pleas, municipal, probate and juvenile — on Thursday to discuss the possibility of reducing the jail population.

Administrative Lt. Andre McConnahea said staff members at the jail are preparing a list of inmates either serving time or awaiting trial on low-level criminal charges (driving under suspension, driving under the influence, petty theft and others) to present to judges, who will have the final say on which inmates will be permitted to leave the jail and under what circumstances.

Treglia said that at the current time it is impossible to determine the number of inmates who could be considered for release.

“I have no clue yet. I’m just trying to stay ahead of this. You’ve just got to keep in mind that 20 or 30 people are being released from our jail on any given day normally,” he said.

The sheriff also said that, effective immediately, all in-person visits with inmates are suspended until further notice.

“Video visitation will still be accessible from homes and kiosks in our lobby. If you plan to visit via lobby kiosks please be patient and prepare for delays,” the sheriff said in a prepared statement. “In no way do we desire to heighten community concerns beyond what they already are, however, we must take these steps out of an abundance of caution.”

The sheriff said he will continue to monitor the health crisis daily.

“As circumstances change, we will change our responses in the most appropriate manner that we determine at that time. I want to thank all Allen County judges and elected officials who are greatly helping to minimize our exposure. As always, we will continue to efficiently protect the citizens of Allen County during this unique situation,” Treglia said.

Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said Friday that officials in that county have prepared a list of low-level inmates that could safely be released should the need arise.

“We’re ready to go, should we need to be,” Solomon said.

Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said he meet with jail staff Friday “and we’ve decided to suspend in-person visitation as of right now.” Inmates may still have visitors on an electronic kiosk so long as they have money on their jail accounts.

Siefker said other changes at the jail have been implemented in response to the current pandemic.

“We’re not going so far as to release inmates yet, but every new inmate will have their temperatures taken upon arrival. For those with a temperature above 100.4 degrees, we will call in the jail nurse and we will keep those inmates isolated” until officials have a better handle on their medical conditions, Siefker said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday said protocols have been put in place statewide to ban in-person visits in Ohio prisons and county jails. The governor said similar protocols were being drafted that would ban visits in juvenile detention facilities.

As a result of that edict, all in-person visitations at the Allen County Juvenile Detention Center have been suspended until further notice.

“During this time, every effort will be made to increase the frequency of permissible phone calls and incorporate the use of video visitation between detention residents and their parents, guardians, custodians, service providers and legal counsel,” Court Administrator Berlin Carroll said in a prepared statement.

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By J Swygart

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