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Ohio sheriff declares 'state of emergency' at overcrowded jail

The jail population has been over the maximum 1,240 for about 190 days

By C1 Staff

CINCINNATI — For nearly a year, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil has been warning other county agencies that the inmate population was reaching a dangerous level. This past week, the jail reached a boiling point and Neil declared a “state of emergency.”

According to WCPO, the Hamilton County Justice Center can hold a maximum of 1,240 inmates. Over the weekend, the jail reached 1,611. They have been past the maximum mark for nearly 190 days. 

"We've reached an unsafe level in our county jail with overcrowding," Neil said. 

Neil told WCPO that the overcrowding has led to as many as 50 inmates sleeping in open areas on portable beds with only two COs watching them.

"Imagine 30 or 40 inmates in that room, and they decide they want to get out of control," he said. "We have no cells to put them in. We're kind of at their mercy."

Jail Operation Commander Dave Turner said the hostility is growing among inmates because of limited access to showers, phones and visits. Officers have recovered a shank from an inmate sleeping in an open area, WCPO reported. 

Neil said he has been in contact with other counties to see if they can take some inmates to alleviate the tension. Twenty-five inmates were transferred Wednesday to Butler County Jail. 

"I cannot and will not jeopardize the safety of my deputies and subject them to an ongoing, volatile, dangerous environment in our jail," Neil wrote. "Nor will I put the inmates, medical staff and others in harm's way."

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