While it’s a daunting prospect for most, many waiting to serve their misdemeanor time in the Erie County jail would love to see this sort of turnaround.
The jail is designed to house 106 people — 90 men, 16 women — but the population levels routinely exceed the recommended capacity. In 2012, for instance, the jail’s average daily population was 123, and at times it peaked to more than 140 inmates.
At a glance
• Erie County officials are researching options to alleviate overcrowding at the jail.
• The most cost-effective solution is to add onto the existing facility.
• The estimated cost is $8 million, but the county doesn’t have the money.
When space is an issue, people with more serious crimes — such as felonies — serve time before people convicted of lesser offenses.
Sometimes, misdemeanants wait days, weeks or even months to serve just a few days in jail.
In hopes of countering this problem, Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth inquired about renting space at the nearby Erie County Fairgrounds and the Sandusky National Guard Armory on Woodlawn Avenue. He would have used the space to house misdemeanor inmates.
Officials overseeing both venues rejected the request, citing safety reasons, several months ago.
Since then, Sigsworth and Erie County commissioner Bill Monaghan have continued to brainstorm ways to find space, if only to cut down on the lengthy waiting times.
One idea they both want to explore: adding onto the jail at 2800 Columbus Ave.
“I asked Sheriff Sigsworth if we could get some numbers on adding a dormitory to one end of the jail,” Monaghan said.
Sigsworth estimates an addition would cost $8 million, for construction and staffing.
“To house more sentenced misdemeanants than we currently do, ideally we would need a dormitory-style facility of some type,” Sigsworth said. “If any new construction was going to occur for the housing of sentenced misdemeanants, this would appear to be the most logical and cost-effective solution.”
One idea that’s not being considered: building a new jail.
“Absolutely not,” Sigsworth said of the 23-year-old facility initially costing taxpayers about $10.5 million to build. “We will continue to operate our current facility that the taxpayers have built and invested many millions of dollars in over the years to the best of our ability.”
Erie County officials said they’ll continue discussing options for how to deal with the misdemeanants waiting list.