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Beyond jail

The Hancock County jail has only so much space for prisoners. The 98 beds there should be reserved for our worst offenders, not first- or second-offense drunk drivers, or petty criminals.
Whether there for a traffic or criminal offense, the majority of people sentenced to jail have some sort of drug or alcohol problem.
To alleviate jail crowding and reduce costs, officials are considering an alternative center where nonviolent offenders could receive help dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.
The time may be right.
Separating those sentenced for minor offenses and those awaiting trial for more serious crimes, like robbery or rape, would be a better use of space, and could help the city and county reduce the cost of housing inmates. It would also mean fewer headaches for corrections officers.
Officials recently visited the Clermont County Alternative Sentencing Center, east of Cincinnati.
The center was opened under a 2011 state law that allows judges to order offenders to serve time there instead of in jail. It is used for females convicted of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug and alcohol offenses.
Officials here could create a similar center for males which could later be expanded to women.
The city already operates a work-release program, but offenders must agree to go there and pay a $25-per-day fee. Drug and alcohol treatment, however, isn’t available, meaning the root problem of many offenders isn’t being addressed.
Officials may need to consider a different payment schedule to get the numbers they need to make it work.
But housing an inmate in an alternative center would likely be less expensive. That could save the city considerably, since Hancock County this year increased the daily fee from $55 to $84 for housing a prisoner at the county jail.
The new rate is expected to cost Findlay an additional $350,000 per year.
Hancock County doesn’t need to expand its jail. It needs to operate a place where offenders can serve their time, continue working and, most importantly, get treatment for the problems that put them there in the first place.
That would be a win, for the city, the county and offenders.

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