Money comes through; Huron County Jail won't have to release inmates

NORWALK A good lawyer can get prisoners out of jail, but so can a bad economy. Budget cuts could have
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

NORWALK

A good lawyer can get prisoners out of jail, but so can a bad economy.

Budget cuts could have led to the release of non-sentenced inmates at the Huron County jail, said Sheriff Dane Howard.

"We were set to run out of money in October and simply could not have stayed in operation since I wouldn't be able to pay the payroll," Howard said. "If we had to close a portion of the jail, a large portion of non-sentenced prisoners would have to be released."

Huron County Commissioners, however, found money in contingency and insurance funds to handle the jail's $167,000 budget shortfall, meaning suspects will not be released early.

Howard said Thursday he was relieved to hear commissioners approved transferring the money.

"There's no benefit to society (letting inmates go free early) -- that's definitely going back in time," Howard said. "We work very hard to put these people in here and we want to keep them away from society for as long as judges feel is necessary."

It's been a rocky economic year for the entire county, but the jail and sheriff's office have especially suffered.

Howard said his departments have carved more than $700,000 this year from his budget through slashing road deputies and jail staff by 15 people.

Howard previously said his departments were the only county agencies that had to sack employees. He said cost-savings come with a price -- less effective policing and enforcing of the laws.

And even those deep cuts didn't put an end to the budget woes.

Shrinking sales tax revenue -- the jail is funded partly through a 0.5-percent sales tax levy -- combined with about $50,000 in late inmate medical bills from 2008 punched a $148,500 hole in the jail's budget, said commissioner Mike Adelman.

Adelman said commissioners were determined not to allow the jail -- a crucial part of the criminal justice system that has already undergone drastic cuts -- to financially suffer to the point of affecting basic operations.

The commissioner said it's nothing short of impressive that the jail is able to function as well as it does considering how much less money it has to work with.