Erie County’s Common Pleas judges have hired a court services officer in an attempt to ease overcrowding at the county jail.
The judges offered the job for the second time to former Sandusky assistant police chief Gary Lyons, and this time Lyons took the judges up on their offer.
Lyons — who retired from the Sandusky Police Department in 2007 after Kim Nuesse was chosen over him for the chief’s job — started Friday.
“This is the guy we originally wanted,” Judge Roger Binette said. Lyons’ first task will be to get the county’s electronic monitoring system up and running.
“The ultimate goal of the program is to save the taxpayers money by not having as many people in jail while making sure the community is safe,” Lyons said.
The county uses two monitoring systems. One is known as ELMO. That system requires a defendant have a home phone, but it does not provide tracking of a defendant.
A GPS anklet, however, allows law enforcement officials to track every movement of a defendant free on bond.
Lyons will evaluate defendants whose cases are making their way through the justice system to see if they meet the criteria to be released on bond. Once Lyons completes his risk assessment, he’ll recommend to a judge if that individual should be released and under what conditions.
The idea behind the job is the more people Lyons can evaluate and recommend for bond, the fewer defendants end up sitting in jail before their case goes to trial.
This summer Erie County Sheriff Terry Lyons sounded off about jail overcrowding to the Erie County Commissioners. He said the jail often houses 30 percent more inmates than it’s built to handle and the county has spent $200,000 so far this year housing inmates elsewhere.
Lyons will also check up on defendants free on bond to make sure they meet the conditions of their bond, such as residing at the dwelling ordered by the court.
Lyons will work part-time, meaning he can’t work more than 33 1/2 hours a week, Binette said.
Judges Binette, Tygh Tone and Beverly McGookey offered the job to Lyons in September, but he turned down the position to take a job in Delaware County. He quit that job after three and a half weeks because of an ongoing dispute with the county administrator.
Late last week the judges learned Lyons was again interested in the court services job. They offered him the position, and he accepted.
The judges were cognizant of the fact that Lyons’ brother, Terry, is the county sheriff and that his hiring might raise eyebrows and “could look bad.”
“We kicked it around,” Binette said.
But in the end the judges figured Gary Lyons’ past law enforcement experience coupled with his connections with other local law enforcement agencies were perfect for the job.
“It’s unfair,” Binette said. “He shouldn’t be denied because he’s the sheriff’s brother.”
The county commissioners gave the judge’s $40,000 to hire the part-time court services officer earlier this year and gave them a Sept. 1 deadline to hire for the job.