Motorists in the four-county area of Fulton, Defiance, Henry, and Williams will soon see Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio inmates along the sides of state and federal highways.
The Corrections Commission of Northwest Ohio, which oversees operation of the corrections center, approved a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation to provide CCNO inmates to pick up trash along the roadsides at its Wednesday, June 28 meeting.
Inmates selected for the program will be low-risk offenders operating in groups of three or four.
A CCNO corrections officer will supervise each group.
While on the job, the inmates will wear orange and white-striped uniforms.
ODOT will provide a van with a warning light bar, trash bags, and up to $45,000 per year to finance the cost.
Dennis Sullivan, CCNO director of security and operations, said CCNO operates a similar project, where inmate crews will do community works projects. That project involves non-incarcerated felons.
There have been no problems, Sullivan said.
The roadside pickup crews will be at the same security level as inmates who participate in community public works projects.
Inmates in the public works program provide services in parks, cemeteries, and recycling centers in all four counties. Men And Women
Sullivan said the roadside pickup crews will be open to male and female inmates, but men and women will not work together.
Inmates will not be given tools, but will be issued rubber gloves.
Meals and restroom breaks will be at public agency sites such as sheriff offices or police departments.
Inmates must apply to be selected for work outside the CCNO fence, and there are strict requirements before they can be allowed out in the community. Those convicted of serious offenses are not allowed to participate.
Sullivan said CCNO inmates receive no pay for their work, but if eligible, can receive time off of their sentences– only if their work is satisfactory.
In other action, the Commission voted to limit the number of beds available for participation in the regional diversion program.
The grant-funded program specified 88 beds, but at times the number has climbed to 115.
By placing a limit on the number, the Commission hopes to avoid overcrowding and maintain grant costs. Bed allocations for the program stand at: Defiance County 12; Fulton County 10; Henry County 4; Lucas County 56; Williams County 6.
Those participating in the pilot project are non-violent fourth- and fifth-degree felons (the lowest levels of felony offenses) who will eventually return to their communities.
They receive special intense substance abuse treatment that will hopefully help them with their recovery and reduce recidivism.
Jim Dennis, CCNO executive director, said there is a huge drug problem in northwest Ohio. CCNO staff has been required to deal with detoxing inmates daily.
The diversion program has been financed by a state grant that expired June. 30.
CCNO officials were authorized to apply for funds for another year.
The Commission authorized the use of excess funds to finance the continuation of the diversion program until additional state funds are available.
Dennis said the jail averaged an inmate count of 610 during May, which is 91% of total capacity.
Among the inmates being held were 18 federal offenders being housed at CCNO under a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service.
The board is scheduled to meet Thursday, July 13, to discuss pending grants and bed allocations.