Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office


About the Sheriff’s Office

Since the early 19th Century, Ohio Sheriffs have been elected on the county level by the communities they serve and protect. The Sheriff’s Office was the first county office established in the United States, which makes it the oldest law enforcement position created in the country. The County Sheriff is also the only remaining law enforcement office filled through the election process, limited to a term of four years.

In each of Ohio’s 88 counties, the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer. The Sheriff’s primary duties are to provide court services and corrections on a countywide basis and full police protection with jurisdiction in 14 municipalities, townships, villages, and unincorporated areas of the county.

History of the Sheriff’s Office

  • The history and functions of a Sheriff can be traced to the provisions of the Magna Carta, written in England in 1215.
  • Originally, the position of Sheriff was filled through appointments made by the Colonial Governor until Ohio achieved statehood in 1803.
  • The first Sheriff on record in Ohio was Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, appointed in 1788. Colonel Sproat’s jurisdiction covered of Washington County, which included all of Eastern Ohio from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.
  • After Ohio achieved statehood, the position of Sheriff was one of only three public offices filled through the electoral process system. Through this new system, William Skinner became the first elected Sheriff in the Buckeye State.

History of the Cincinnati Workhouse

The Cincinnati Workhouse was originally built for the City of Cincinnati from 1867 to 1869. It was later operated by Hamilton County as the County Correctional Institute. The design was more like a state penitentiary than a county jail, with a large, multi-storied central block flanked by lower, elongated wings. The roof rested on cast iron and steel trusses supported by exterior bearing walls and underlaid by wood planking. Walls were red brick with buttresses and limestone trim and sashing, and the windows were metal framed paned glass. The grounds ranged 6 acres, half of which were occupied by buildings.

On July 21, 1865, the City Council of Cincinnati passed a resolution which called for the planning of a new workhouse. As a result, land in Camp Washington (a local suburb) was purchased for $50,000, and architects Anderson and Hannaford were contracted to design the main building. The buildings were opened on November 17, 1869 and completed in January 1870. In early 1870, the incarcerated people in the facility were made to produce shoes for the J.P. Hearne Co., castings for the Miles Greenwood Co., and they erected new workshops for other manufacturers.
The first women to be incarcerated at the Workhouse were committed on December 1, 1869, and by June of 1870, the facility had a total occupancy of 1567. Of these people, 900 served sentences for drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

The Workhouse continued to be used during the 20th Century. For example, movies such as Lock-Up starring Sylvester Stallone were filmed here. Finally, after deterioration and neglect, the Workhouse was condemned and demolished towards the end of the 20th Century. Today, the door of a jail cell, the yard bell, and a registry of those incarcerated can be seen at the Hamilton County Justice Center.