The Jail Services Division is one of the Divisions overseen by the Sheriff’s Office and is managed by Major Dan Ems. He is responsible for the operation of all adult detention facilities in Hamilton County that are under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office. This includes 321 uniformed Corrections Officers, 33 uniformed Corrections Supervisors, and 83 support service personnel.
With an average daily inmate population of 1,524 and a total of 30,977 admissions in 2016, the local jail system is ranked among the top 25 largest in the nation. The average inmate incarceration length is 75 days.
The Hamilton County Justice Center, which was completed in 1985 at a cost of 54 million dollars, is the Division’s primary facility (with an inmate capacity of 1,240). In addition, the Division also maintains detention facilities at the Reading Road Facility (172 inmates), and the Woodburn Ave. facility (60 inmates), along with a comprehensive treatment program for multiple DUI offenders. Division personnel also provide for the security of inmates who are admitted to University Hospital and for juveniles who are to be tried as adults. The total Court Limited capacity is 1,472.
The Hamilton County Justice Center has been described as a “city within a city”. To provide for the general welfare of inmates, the Jail Services Division administers a wide variety of programs and services, including an accredited Health Services Section (medical, dental and psychiatric), a commercially equipped laundry, and an institutional kitchen that prepares 120,000 meals a month. Division Staff are also responsible for the supervision of inmate recreation programs and for the efficient operation of the commissary, mail, and property room services.
When Sheriff Jim Neil took office in 2013, he ordered that an audit of every operation of the Sheriff’s Office be conducted. As a result of this audit, it was determined that the Jail Services Division’s current programs were not doing enough to reduce recidivism. He immediately assembled a team of various service agencies throughout Hamilton County to assess the programs in place and make suggestions on how to either improve them or begin new programs that would actually reduce recidivism. This committee became known as W.R.A.P., which means Working to Provide Appropriate Placement. Some of those represented are Pre-Trial Services, the Hamilton County Re-entry program, the Talbert House, Veteran Services, Cincinnati/Union Bethel Off the Streets, the Hamilton County Board of Health, and Mental Health agencies from across the county.
Based on this committee’s efforts, the following programs have either been started or enhanced to accomplish the goal of reducing recidivism.
The Division offers an Adult Education Program addressing the needs of the incarcerated adult learner, whose skills range from illiteracy to some college. The voluntary program serves approximately 450 inmates a year. Hamilton County is the only Sheriff’s Office in Ohio to offer final GED Testing on-site for qualifying students. The Division also offers the MANA program (“Mentoring Against Negative Actions”), which is a program designed to help young men become responsible grown men. The magnitude of the community’s financial investment in providing adequate detention facilities requires the responsible utilization of all resources. The Jail Service Division recognizes their responsibility and obligation to maintain a safe and secure environment for those individuals committed to the Division’s care and custody.
The veterans unit was implemented based on recommendations to Sheriff Neil from Sister Kateri Koverman, a Sister of Charity nun. Sister Koverman served in the United States Army during Vietnam and suffered from PTSD. Based on her own experiences and training, she knew that she would be able to assist incarcerated veterans with their problems. A sentiment she often shared with people is, although these inmates committed a crime, they deserve our respect and support because they stepped up and signed their name on the dotted line and served their country. The unit currently houses sixteen inmates but the overall program serves an average of 50 inmates daily. The veteran inmates routinely receive support and post incarceration placement from various agencies throughout the county. Some of the participants are volunteers from the Veterans Administration, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the American Legion, Shelter House and Joseph House. Housing several of the veterans in one unit so they may aide each other with solutions to their issues is key to success.
As a result of the growing heroin addiction epidemic, the amount of offenders being incarcerated who experience withdrawal symptoms is continuously growing. In order to aide these offenders in coping with the physical symptoms of withdrawal; a specific unit was designated where inmates are housed for the first seven to ten days of their incarceration so that the Medical staff can better treat them.
The growing amount of people incarcerated who are addicted to opiates is a problem faced by every jail in Ohio. In order to help resolve this problem, many criminal justice professionals and medical professionals realize that some form of treatment must be provided to these incarcerated individuals to have any chance of breaking the cycle of addiction. The Jail Services Division has partnered with several organizations throughout the county to provide opiate addiction support and education to the inmate population. In order to focus this support on individuals who want it, a unit was designated as the “recovery unit”. One of the goals of this unit is post-incarceration placement into more intensive treatment. Although statistical data is still being collected as to the effectiveness of this unit, based on responses from the inmate population it appears to be very favorable.
Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous Counseling
The amount of offenders being incarcerated that have addiction problems is staggering. In order to combat this problem, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office partners with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to provide ongoing support to the inmate population.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office partners with the non-profit organization “Transforming Jail Ministries”, which has hundreds of volunteers who provide religious services for every religious denomination.
Based on the sheer amount of repeat offenders housed at the Justice Center, the Jail Services Division has partnered with the Hamilton County Commissioners Re-entry program so that incarcerated inmates can be transitioned into society more quickly and be better equipped to face the challenges of returning to society. When an inmate has approximately 75 percent of his sentence remaining, they can be assigned to the “Reentry unit”.