PREBLE COUNTY – An overcrowding of the female population in the Preble County Jail is causing concern for Sheriff Mike Simpson.
When the jail opened in 1994, it was built to only house 10 female inmates at any given time in the female section.
Those numbers continue to increase each year, and now county taxpayers are being forced to pay for the influx of female inmates to be housed in Mercer County at a cost of $45 per day per inmate, plus medical expenses, according to Simpson.
The cost of housing inmates at another facility was not in the PCSO’s budget for the year and could cost the county as much as $12,000 in added expenses for inmate housing alone. That cost doesn’t include medical expenses.
“We’ve never had to budget for outside inmate housing,” Simpson said. “We moved money around that had been allocated for other stuff this year to be able to accomplish that. That extra money that we were able to move wasn’t really extra — it’s just not being used for its intended purpose. The more we don’t do things we were going to do originally, in the budget, then that’s going to cause more issues here.”
Simpson said the increase is mainly due to drug addiction, and it began in the past few years.
“A very high percentage of these females are in here because of drug addictions and crimes of either direct involvement with drugs, possession, or property crimes associated with trying to keep that habit going,” Simpson said.
During the month of April, the Preble County Sheriff’s Office booked 27 females into the jail.
“An issue we are having is that once here, they rarely post bond prior to trial,” Simpson said. “Due to this and after consultation with the board (of commissioners,) I moved five inmates to the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office to be housed.”
Prior to the move, the highest daily count for females was on April 27, with 23 inmates, while the lowest total for the month was on April 2, with 17.
Simpson said the daily average for the month of April was 20 female inmates, which is 10 over capacity.
“We were maxed out here,” Simpson said. “We had nowhere else to put them. What we’ve tried to do is put female inmates in a work release section of the jail and still keep them out of sight and sound of male inmates.”
Simpson said he wants to maintain a safe environment.
“There’s just not enough capacity here to do that and still be within the guidelines that we have to operate under,” he said.
Simpson said he doesn’t see the trend of a high female population going away anytime soon.
“The numbers are going up,” he said. “I can’t tell you the last time we had 10 female inmates or fewer in the jail. It’s been a long time. We’ve never had to house inmates in another facility. I’m in my 13th year as sheriff and this is the first time I’ve had to do it. I don’t see it getting any better. I could be wrong — I hope I’m wrong. I hope it does get better.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.