What happens when you elect an entrepreneurial businessman to political office? You get creative problem solving and economic good sense.
Faced with the problems of a shortage of operational jail space, a high rate of heroine-related crime, a recidivism rate above 70%, and fiscal constraints, Uible began to explore a creative solution. Having heard about Ohio legislation which provided for alternative sentencing, and with previous knowledge of the success of Talbert House in treating drug and alcohol addiction, his brain child was conceived. Talbert House, located in Cincinnati, was instrumental in writing the legislation, and has been able to reduce recidivism rates to 20-30% among non-violent offenders that have gone through their non-residential program in Cincinnati. For months Commissioner Uible has been exploring the idea of opening the south side of our Clermont County Jail as a Community Alternative Sentencing Center, referred to as a CASC.
A CASC would provide Municipal Court judges with another option in dealing with non-violent offenders who have an addiction problem, and who would otherwise be jail-bound. The program would cost less than traditional jail, which currently exceeds $20,000/year per bed; and would include classes, treatment, and counseling to treat the addiction, and offer job and life skills training. Offenders who meet the program criteria would be able to continue to go to work during the day and would return to the center for the night, attending classes and receiving counseling and coaching from professional psychologists and counselors. The goal is rehabilitating the individual – breaking the cycle of addiction, reducing the chances of re-offending, and facilitating the return to society as a productive and contributing member.
A surprising number of heroine-related cases are seen in Clermont County courtrooms every day. There is considerable concern over the trend across the county, and the destructive impact that drugs have on a community. Judge George Pattison is positive about the CASC concept:
“The judges are totally in support of the program as we understand it….We feel that the commissioners are taking an important step forward.”
The south wing of the jail, which contains classrooms and recreational areas along with inmate housing, is currently closed because the county has not been able to afford to operate it. An offender sentenced to a CASC can be charged a daily fee of $15 to help offset the expense to the county (a jail inmate cannot be charged.)
The county put out an RFP (Request for Proposal), and has received proposals from Talbert House and Clermont Recovery Center to operate a CASC. Proposals will be evaluated, and the agency that is selected would lease the facility, oversee and administer the program, and handle the finances. The county would pay a per diem fee for each offender in the program. A number of inmates currently housed in the traditional jail on the north side of the jail could qualify for the CASC, and could potentially be moved into the CASC, opening beds on the north side. In addition, Warren and Butler counties have expressed interest in the program and their participation would lower the cost of operation, lowering the daily fee for Clermont County participants. Uible estimates that the cost of the CASC could be half the cost of traditional jail,
“for non-violent drug addicts and alcoholics – to get them re-socialized, corrected, and back on the street earning a living and paying taxes. It should reduce the recidivism rate; they won’t come back into jail as often and will become better citizens.”
The commissioners hope to reach a decision on proposals within the next couple of weeks. If the plan continues as envisioned, it would be the first program of its kind in Ohio.